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Critique is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse
Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

. Critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgement, but it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt. The contemporary sense of critique has been largely influenced by the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 critique of prejudice and authority, which championed the emancipation and autonomy from religious and political authorities. Critique is an accepted format of written and oral debate
Debate or debating is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examines consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion...


Some authors draw a distinction between critique and criticism
Criticism is the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another . To criticize does not necessarily imply to find fault, but the word is often taken to mean the simple expression of an objection against prejudice, or a disapproval.Another meaning of...

. The distinction is not made in French, German and Italian, where the two words both translate as critique, Kritik and critica respectively. According to philosopher Gianni Vattimo
Gianni Vattimo
Gianteresio Vattimo, also known as Gianni Vattimo is an internationally recognized Italian author, philosopher, and politician. Many of his works have been translated into English.-Biography:...

, criticism is used more frequently to denote literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

 or art criticism
Art criticism
Art criticism is the discussion or evaluation of visual art.Art critics usually criticize art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty...

, that is the interpretation and evaluation of literature and art; while critique may be used in the English language to refer to more general and profound writing as Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

's Critique of pure reason
Critique of Pure Reason
The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, first published in 1781, second edition 1787, is considered one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. Also referred to as Kant's "first critique," it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgement...

. Another proposed distinctions is that critique is never personalized nor ad hominem
Ad hominem
An ad hominem , short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it...

, but is instead the analyses of the structure of the thought in the content of the item critiqued. This analysis then offers by way of the critique method either a rebuttal or a suggestion of further expansion upon the problems presented by the topic of that specific written or oral argumentation. Even authors that believe there might be a distinction, say that there is some ambiguity that is still unresolved.

Critique is an accepted and established process of orderly scholarly and public debate. In the fine arts and the humanities, and especially in writing, critique is influenced by the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

 of analysis. Critique is based upon an informed opinion, and never upon personal opinion. Informed opinion is accepted as being technical knowledge, personal or professional experience, or specified training.

The term "critique" implied from Ancient Indian term "kriturq", meaning an opposite opinion or suggestion or argument.

The term critique derives from the Greek term kritikē (κριτική), meaning "(the art of) discerning", that is, discerning the value of persons or things. .

In Philosophy and its Applications

Philosophy is the application of critical thought, and is the disciplined practice of processing the theory/praxis problem. In philosophical
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 contexts, such as law or academics, critique is most influenced by Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

's use of the term to mean a reflective examination of the validity and limits of a human capacity or of a set of philosophical claims. This has been extended in modern philosophy
Modern philosophy
Modern philosophy is a type of philosophy that originated in Western Europe in the 17th century, and is now common worldwide. It is not a specific doctrine or school , although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy.The 17th and...

 to mean a systematic inquiry into the conditions and consequences of a concept
The word concept is used in ordinary language as well as in almost all academic disciplines. Particularly in philosophy, psychology and cognitive sciences the term is much used and much discussed. WordNet defines concept: "conception, construct ". However, the meaning of the term concept is much...

, a theory
The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

, a discipline
In its original sense, discipline is referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Often, the phrase "to discipline" carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order –...

, or an approach and/or attempt to understand the limitations and validity
In logic, argument is valid if and only if its conclusion is entailed by its premises, a formula is valid if and only if it is true under every interpretation, and an argument form is valid if and only if every argument of that logical form is valid....

 of that. A critical perspective, in this sense, is the opposite of a dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

tic one. Kant wrote:
We deal with a concept dogmatically ... if we consider it as contained under another concept of the object which constitutes a principle of reason and determine it in conformity with this. But we deal with it merely critically if we consider it only in reference to our cognitive faculties and consequently to the subjective conditions of thinking it, without undertaking to decide anything about its object.

Later thinkerssuch as used the word 'critique' in a broader way than Kant's sense of the word, to mean the systematic inquiry into the limits of a doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

 or set of concepts. This referential expansion led, for instance, to the formulation of the idea of social critique, such as arose after Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

's theoretical work delineated in his Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), which was a critique of the then-current models of economic theory and thought of that time. Further critique can then be applied after the fact, by using thorough critique as a basis for new argument. The idea of critique is elemental to legal, aesthetic, and literary theory and such practices, such as in the analysis and evaluation of writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

s such as pictorial, musical, or expanded textual works.

The Strength and Weakness of a Critique

Formal and casual criticisms of a work (a poem, an article, a book, a painting, or a play, for example) often use the term 'critique' to refer to any somewhat loosely-applied argument about the quality of the work, typically when used in reference to popular (loose) expectations, or conventionality, of a genre or class. Such idea of 'quality' is measured against varying standards which may not be equivalents. It is very difficult to establish a measure of 'quality.' Hewing to a measure of 'quality' requires standardization, which eclipses tendentious conditions such as tradition, nuanced, subcultural, or analogous usages. 'Quality' is no longer thought of as being a necessarily valid marker signifying importance in some circles, and very much a signifier of such importance in other circles. Critique, when applied, analyzes very narrow qualitative assemblies of thought.

Many practitioners prefer to distinguish "weak" critiques (supported by arguments from induction, testimony, appeals to authority or to emotion, consensus, chain of improbabilities (e.g., butterfly effect
Butterfly effect in popular culture
The butterfly effect is the phenomenon whereby a minor change in circumstances can cause a large change in outcome.The term is sometimes used in popular media dealing with the idea of time travel, usually inaccurately. Most time travel depictions simply fail to address butterfly effects...

), or appeals to analogy) from "strong critiques" that rely only on deduction, mathematical proof, and formal logic.

Both types of critique find expression in academic essays, policy position papers, trade journals, periodicals, political and religious leaflets, civic testimony, and judicial cross examination. The "stronger critique" is generally accepted as "more" valid, while the "weak" critique is generally accepted as preferential rather than conclusive, or leading to conclusive, result. "Weak" critique is greatly cautioned against in formal education.

Critical Theory

Marx's work inspired the 'Frankfurt School
Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School refers to a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory, particularly associated with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main...

' of critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

, now best exemplified in the work of Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

. This, in turn, helped inspire the cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

 form of social critique, which treats cultural products and their reception as evidence of wider social ills such as racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 or gender bias. Social critique has been further extended in the work of Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

 and of Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre is a British philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology...

. In their different and radically contrasting ways, MacIntyre and Foucault go well beyond the original Kantian meaning of the term critique in contesting legitimatory accounts of social power.