Critical Theory and the New Thinking: A Preliminary Approach

  • Howard Caygill

The exploration of the historical and conceptual relationships between Critical Theory and the ‘new thinking’ — between what we might call the two ‘Frankfurt Schools’ of the Institut für Sozialforschung and the Freies Jüdisches Lehrhaus (‘Free Jewish School’) — has largely been confined to philological work focusing upon the links between Franz Rosenzweig and Walter Benjamin.1 The focus on this relationship, while important, risks distracting attention from the broader philosophical significance of the contrasts between the two schools of thought. Beyond the shared origins in the critique of German Idealism and certain parallels in their development, the confrontation of still vital traditions of Critical Theory and ‘new thinking’ remains an important issue in contemporary philosophy. Not only for the diverse critical perspectives that each brings to the themes of the end of philosophy, religion and totalitarian politics, but also as living bodies of thought. For both schools remain contemporary, with the seemingly eclipsed ‘new thinking’ given new life by the critiques of ontology inspired by the thought of Emmanuel Levinas.


Critical Theory Frankfurt School German Idealism Shared Origin Levinasian Ethic 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Howard Caygill

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