Thursday, March 29, 2007

Reformational Philosophy and Critical Theory

What do reformational philosophy and critical theory have in common? On reading James Boham’s article in the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy a few things come to mind.

Critical theorists have seen a close link between philosophy and the social sciences. This link is seen mainly in terms of linking normativity and empirical research, which is different from the way Reformational philosophy sees the link. For reformational philosophy the special sciences, of whatever sort, require, or better, have, philosophical presuppositions. There is no distinction between norms and facts that need to be brought together by philosophy (actually critical theory may accept this or at least point in this direction), instead the special sciences should become more aware of their philosophical assumptions, which themselves point beyond any theoretical view to basic religious commitments.

Returning to the issue of normativity, this appears to be another area of similarity. Both emphasis the importance of norms and their universality, but also both seek to see these norms contextualised within different spheres. For critical theory these spheres are different sorts of empirical social research, for reformational philosophy these are basic “life spheres”. This contextual kind of normativity must also, for both, be understood in relation to specific historical circumstances without being reduced to such.

To finish with a third similarity it seems to me that the critical theorist's desire to help effect social transformation of current circumstances is also shared by those in the reformational tradition.

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