Between Reification and Mystification

Lee, Richard A. and Christopher P. Long “Between Reification and Mystification: Rethinking the Economy of Principles,” Telos 120 (2001): 92-112.

While the rhetoric of the “end of metaphysics” is guided by a well-founded concern to call into question the hegemonic function of principles, it remains misguided insofar as it rejects the entire history of Western thinking as totalizing. While this article recognizes this legacy of totalizing thinking, it also seeks to locate another tendency endemic to the history of Western philosophy, a tendency that recognizes the irreducibility of the individual. We trace this other tendency from Aristotle, through Ockham and ultimately to Adorno.

In the process, we take issue with the Heideggerian response to the “end of metaphysics” insofar as it seems to annihilate the possibility of critique. Finally, we develop a conception of “critically transformative action” in which the coercive dimension of principles is recognized even as principles themselves are continually deployed against the very structures of power in which they are always embedded.

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