Critique of Forms of Life

Critique of Forms of Life

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For many liberals, the question “Do others live rightly?” feels inappropriate. Liberalism seems to demand a follow-up question: “Who am I to judge?” Peaceful coexistence, in this view, is predicated on restraint from morally evaluating our peers. But Rahel Jaeggi sees the situation differently. Criticizing is not only valid but also useful, she argues. Moral judgment is no error; the error lies in how we go about judging.

One way to judge is external, based on universal standards derived from ideas about God or human nature. The other is internal, relying on standards peculiar to a given society. Both approaches have serious flaws and detractors. In Critique of Forms of Life, Jaeggi offers a third way, which she calls “immanent” critique. Inspired by Hegelian social philosophy and engaged with Anglo-American theorists such as John Dewey, Michael Walzer, and Alasdair MacIntyre, immanent critique begins with the recognition that ways of life are inherently normative because they assert their own goodness and rightness. They also have a consistent purpose: to solve basic social problems and advance social goods, most of which are common across cultures. Jaeggi argues that we can judge the validity of a society’s moral claims by evaluating how well the society adapts to crisis—whether it is able to overcome contradictions that arise from within and continue to fulfill its purpose.

Jaeggi enlivens her ideas through concrete, contemporary examples. Against both relativistic and absolutist accounts, she shows that rational social critique is possible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674737754
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 12/28/2018
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 1,234,045
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Rahel Jaeggi is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy and Director of the Center for Humanities and Social Change at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Note on the Translation xvii

Introduction: Against "Ethical Abstinence" 1

I An Ensemble of Practices: Forms of Life as Social Formations 33

1 What Is a Form of Life? 35

1.1 Form of Life: Concept and Phenomenon 35

1.2 Duration, Depth, Scope 42

1.3 A Modular Concept of Forms of Life 50

2 Forms of Life as Inert Ensembles of Practices 55

2.1 What Are (Social) Practices? 56

2.2 The Interconnected Character of Practices 62

2.3 The Moment of Inertia 73

2.4 Practice, Criticism, Reflection 83

II Solutions to Problems: Forms of Life as Normatively Constituted Formations 85

3 The Normativity of Forms of Life 89

3.1 Norms and Normativity 91

3.2 Modes of Normativity 96

3.3 Three Types of Norm Justification 105

3.4 Lack of Correspondence with Its Concept 118

4 Forms of Life as Problem-Solving Entities 133

4.1 What Are Problems? 134

4.2 Given or Made? The Problem with Problems 139

4.3 Attempts at Problem-Solving: Hegel's Theory of the Family 145

4.4 Crises of Problem-Solving 153

4.5 Second Order Problems 163

III Forms of Criticism 173

5 What Is Internal Criticism? 177

5.1 External and Internal Criticism 177

5.2 The Strategy of Internal Criticism 179

5.3 Advantages and Limits of Internal Criticism 183

6 "To Find the New World through Criticism of the Old One": Immanent Criticism 190

6.1 Criticism of a New Type 191

6.2 The Strategy of Immanent Criticism 195

6.3 Potentials and Difficulties 208

IV The Dynamics of Crisis and the Rationality of Social Change 215

7 Successful and Failed Learning Processes 221

7.1 Change, Development. Learning, Progress 221

7.2 Are Forms of Life Capable of Learning? 226

7.3 Deficient learning Processes 230

7.4 Why Does History Matter? 233

8 Crisis-Induced Transformations: Dewey, MacIntyre, Hegel 237

8.1 Social Change as Experimental Problem-Solving 238

8.2 The Dynamics of Traditions 240

8.3 History as a Dialectical Learning Process 243

9 Problem or Contradiction? 246

9.1 Problems as Indeterminateness 247

9.2 Crisis as a Break in Continuity 250

9.3 Crisis as Dialectical Contradiction 255

9.4 The Problem with Contradiction 265

10 The Dynamics of Learning Processes 272

10.1 Problem-Solving as an Experimental Learning Process 274

10.2 The Dynamics of Traditions 286

10.3 The Source of Progress and of Degeneration 290

10.4 A Dialectical-Pragmatist Understanding of Learning Processes 299

Conclusion: A Critical Theory of Criticism of Forms of Life 315

Notes 321

Index 383

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