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Criteria in crisis: Modernist, postmodernist, and feminist critical practices

Mary Ann Sushinsky, University of Massachusetts Amherst


I examine a problem or dilemma of legitimation faced by the critical theorist who takes as the object of his or her critique a totality of which she or he is a part. The dilemma is that the theorist must either illegitimately exempt her critical theory from the determining influences of the totality or lose normative authority. The critics I examine in detail are: Adorno and Horkheimer; Kant; Hegel; feminist standpoint epistemologists, in particular, Sandra Harding; Irigaray; Foucault; and Arendt. I conclude that a purely theoretical or epistemic ground for the legitimacy of totalizing critique is impossible; philosophical critique must involve an extra-rational faith or a political commitment. However, I also argue that the project of theoretical grounding should not be abandoned. I continue this project by drawing out of the critical theorists I examined some preliminary concepts and strategies (such as mimesis, hysteria, free action, and psychoanalytic practice) that may, after further development, serve to provide a theory of the legitimacy of critical philosophy.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Sushinsky, Mary Ann, "Criteria in crisis: Modernist, postmodernist, and feminist critical practices" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9920655.