Of the meaning “critical”

It seems like the challenge of words changing their identity is still upon us and not going away any time soon (who would’ve knows, right?). It is as if a battlefield of meanings, the same as it appears to be with “knowledge” and even with “identities”.

This same goes to the word “critical” or “critique”. Its meaning as “negative” in everyday language appears so strong that its meaning as “analysis” seems to be taking hits. For the meaning of critique, I’ve enjoyed several different definitions, but particularly this one from Michel Foucault that captures something essential:

“A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest. […] Criticism is a matter of flushing out that thought and trying to change it: to show that things are not as self-evident as one believed, to see what is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted as such.”
(1988, pp. 154–155) Foucault, M. (1988). Practicing criticism. In L. D. Kritzman (Ed.), Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings 1977–1984. New York: Routledge.


Beyond Good and Evil §194: of helpful people (and their techniques)

Among helpful and charitable people one almost regularly encounters that clumsy ruse which first doctors the person to be helped-as if, for example, he “deserved” help, required just their help, and would prove to be profoundly grateful for all help, faithful and submissive. With these fancies they dispose of the needy as of possessions, being charitable and helpful people from a desire for possessions. One finds them jealous if one crosses or anticipates them when they want to help. Involuntarily, parents turn children into something similar to themselves – they call that “education.”

(Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1966, §194, p. 107)

We just want to help. Help these subjects with techniques. On the discursive level the logic goes as follows: to support the teachers to ‘”see student progress” and the student to “follow their own learning”.

An abstraction to justify plethora of concrete actions that command forth old and new material to maintain the technique. And they need our help, our technique – because otherwise they would be too capable for acting as humans.

Actions take place because helpful people, their helpful purpose, are by default “good”. And isn’t it always better to try to do good than do nothing? (“action is better” and “progress is good” logical mesh).