Critical Theory and the Significance of AnthropologyMarch 30-31, 2022 University of Potsdam
House 9, Room 2.05
Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam
In the early twentieth century, anthropology emerges as an independent discipline of philosophy. This philosophical anthropology is already subjected to a radical critique in the 1930s. According to Max Horkheimer, not only the realization, but even the task of such anthropology is impossible. Anthropology that examines the nature of human beings is thereby replaced by a critical social theory locating human beings within a historically concrete society. The critique of anthropology continues in the public debate between Arnold Gehlen and Theodor W. Adorno (1965) on whether sociology can be conceived of as a “Wissenschaft vom Menschen”. But how can this critical relation towards anthropology be understood more precisely? Does it perhaps result in an anthropological deficit – for instance with regard to the normative foundation of social critique? Or does Critical Theory import various anthropological resources from its important sources of reference (Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, etc.)? If there is an implicit anthropology – as the reference to a “dialectical anthropology” in the preface to the Dialectic of Enlightenment might suggest – the question arises why there has been no explicit treatment of it.
Starting from these questions, the workshop aims to clarify the significance of anthropological considerations within Critical Theory and to specify its implicit conception of human beings. It invites contributions not only on the early Critical Theory, but also on further developments in Critical Theory. It is particularly interesting in this context that the critique of anthropology does not have to be interpreted as its rejection, but can rather be understood as a deepening of its own problems.
Walter Benjamin, Schema zur Anthropologie