“To say, with Rousseau, that we do not know what our nature permits us to be, is to say that our status as natural beings underdetermines our status as normative beings—in other words, that “our nature” does not answer the question of what it means to be a human being, or dictate what it is that we should become. This is somewhat reassuring since it tells us that there is a domain of human freedom not dictated by our biological nature, but it is somewhat unnerving because it leaves uncomfortably open what kind of beings human beings could become.” (Kompridis 2009:20)

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Nikolas Kompridis is a Canadian born philosopher and political theorist contaminated by the the work of the Frankfurt School of critical theory (having worked closely with influential academic Jürgen Habermas), romanticism and the aesthetic dimension(s) of politics. His writing re-works the concepts of receptivity and Heidegger’s ‘world disclosure’ into a minor paradigm he calls “reflective disclosure”. He is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Institute for Social Justice at the Australian Catholic University. 

In Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future (2006), Kompridis argues that Habermasian critical theory has largely severed its own roots in German Idealism, while neglecting modernity’s distinctive relationship to the utopian potential of critique. In the book, Kompridis draws upon Habermas’ work, along with the philosophical traditions of German Idealism, American Pragmatism, and many others to propose an alternative approach to social criticism as a facilitator of social change. Arguing against Habermas’ “procedural conception of reason” and in favour of reflective disclosure, the book suggests that critical theory should become a “possibility-disclosing” practice of social criticism “if it is to have a future worthy of its past.”

His publications include:

  • The Aesthetic Turn in Political Thought (ed.) 2014. New York, London: Bloomsbury.
  • “Technology’s Challenge to Democracy: What of theHuman?” Parrhesia, Issue 8, 2009, pp. 20–33.
  • Critique and Disclosure: Critical Theory between Past and Future. 2006. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Philosophical Romanticism (ed.) 2006. London: Routledge.

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“To theorists whose thought is self-consciously developed as a response to some deep and abiding experience of crisis, we might wish to give the name ‘crisis thinkers’. Although not always apparent, and certainly too little understood, the experience of crisis may well be the primary inducement to thought in our time, the time of modernity. This is not an accident or some contingent fact about modernity; rather, modernity induces ‘crisis thinking’ because it is inherently crisis generating.”(2006:3)

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