Critique of Instrumental Reason and the Aims of Philosophy

By Ian Angus.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Max Horkheimer’s Eclipse of Reason developed a critique of the dominance of instrumental reason in modern philosophy through contrasting its subjective, pragmatic orientation with that of objective reason. While objective reason had a subjective component, its main purpose was to reconcile human purposes with a larger cosmological or historical structure of meaning. He recognized that his own Critical Theory, which develops these categories of historical interpretation, relies on a remnant of objective reason. My argument clarifies this remnant, and its solidarity with the objective aims of philosophy, with reference to the critique of instrumentality in Plato’s Gorgias.

Keywords: Critical Theory, Philosophy, Max Horkheimer, Plato

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.165-168. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 489.050KB).

Dr. Ian Angus

Professor, Department of Humanities, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Ian Angus’ intellectual formation began with the 20th century European philosophies of phenomenology and the Frankfurt school of critical theory. His first book, Technique and Enlightenment (1984), probed the historical sources of the ‘instrumental reason’ that legitimates the modern advance of technology and argued for a form of technology assessment that is not only ethical but pertains also to the construction of human identity. A significant turn in Angus’ work occurred when he began a critical engagement with the history of English Canadian social and political thought, which resulted in A Border Within: National Identity, Cultural Plurality and Wilderness (1997), which was widely reviewed in both the academic and popular press. Three books—(Dis)figurations: Discourse/Critique/Ethics (2000), Primal Scenes of Communication: Communication, Consumerism, Social Movements (2000), and Emergent Publics: An Essay on Social Movements and Democracy (2001)—have presented his positions with regard to contemporary political philosophy and communication. He has also recently published long essays on the viability of Socratic inquiry in a contemporary context, the relation between Athens and Jerusalem in Western civilization, the concept of modernity, and the ethic of philosophy.

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