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History and ideality in Husserl, Derrida, and the Critical Theory tradition

Oliver, Samuel J (2019) History and ideality in Husserl, Derrida, and the Critical Theory tradition. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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The question of how to identify a sound normative basis for critique has troubled the Frankfurt School tradition of Critical Theory since its inception. Many thinkers in the Critical Theory tradition wish to avoid treating the normative ground as an abstract and ahistorical in-itself, and to connect it to concrete historical reality. It is, however, very difficult to do this without reducing the normative ground to a merely contingent historical fact, erasing its normative force and relativizing critique. It seems that one must end up in either metaphysical Platonism or historicist relativism. In this work I argue that resources for tackling this question can be found in the phenomenological tradition, especially in the work of Jacques Derrida. Critical Theory has for the most part rejected phenomenology for its general philosophical approach, but I argue that an engagement with Derrida’s reading of Edmund Husserl is essential if Critical Theory wishes to make progress with the problem of normativity. To begin with, I examine Theodor Adorno’s notion of a non-dogmatic dialectical materialism. This doctrine contains the seed of a solution to the problem, but Adorno does not consistently apply it in his critical work. I then show that a reading of Derrida’s engagement with Husserl’s treatment of the relation between ideal being and subjective experience offers a more consistent way of putting Adorno’s non-dogmatic insights to work. After examining Derrida and Husserl’s work on the relation between ideal objectivity and subjective experience, I then turn to the work of Axel Honneth. Using the insights found in the exposition of Derrida and Husserl, I criticize two different attempts from Honneth to comprehend the relation between historical experience and its normative ground. Through these critical examples, I show what it is that Critical Theory can learn from Derrida and Husserl, and why it stands to benefit from an engagement with the phenomenological tradition.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Samuel Oliver
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2019 15:12
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 15:12

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