Criticizing Forms of Life
Oude Boteringestraat 52
- Groningen School of Critical Theory
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Liberal theories often draw a distinction between questions of justice which are capable of being decided in ways justifiable to all concerned and ethical questions, or questions about the “good life”, for which no such justifications are available. This seems to exclude thick evaluations of “forms of life” from the realm of public reason, although we find such evaluations everywhere in public discourse as well as in many discourses outside of liberal philosophy - such as in debates about the nuclear family, wage labor, consumerism or academic culture as a form of life as well as related to issues of gender relations and class. Should political philosophy allow for a discussion of forms of life? Are there arguments available which concern the desirability or goodness of forms of life (rather than merely their compatibility with a thin notion of justice) which can aspire to universal validity? Can we make non-relative judgments about whether forms of life succeed or fail, whether they are successful, progressive or regressive? Or can we only engage in “internal critique”, comparing them to their own aspirations? Can we ever be justified in criticizing those who hang to specific forms of life that we consider failures, outdated or regressive, even if these forms of life are not unjust? Or is such a form of critique necessarily authoritarian or ideological? If not, how should we understand this form of social critique?
Answering these questions requires not only reflection about the relationship between the right and the good in political philosophy, but also an examination of social ontological issues regarding the nature of forms of life and the institutions involved, of modes of social and political critique, and of the challenges of ethical pluralism in modern societies.
The workshop includes a keynote lecture by Prof. Rahel Jaeggi (Humboldt University Berlin) who has developed a comprehensive theory of forms of life from a critical theory perspective in her book Critique of Forms of Life (Harvard University Press 2018).
March 20, 2020, 9:00am CET
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