Critical . . . of what?

The phrase “critical standpoint” is worth elaborating further.  The critical standpoint entails, above all, reexamining fundamental terms and ideas that we ourselves may not have fully understood and that may have contributed to subtle misunderstandings about the world.  Critical humanists have focused, particularly, on three kinds of ideas that may involve such misunderstandings and that therefore require critical scrutiny.  These include: 

(1) common ideas that contribute to subtly erroneous “taken-for-granted” knowledge about ordinary human actions and experiences; an example of this would be the misunderstandings about the meaning of the term “humanism,” as noted on the accompanying page

(2) ideas about human interactions that overlook or conceal some of the ways in which social and institutional power are exerted by those with greater influence and privilege over those with less;  such abuses of power may reflect varying degrees of conscious intent, but they often occur when individuals simply adhere to the prescribed norms, standards, and expectations of historically unjust institutions, leading to consequences that were not intended, in any ordinary sense of the term, but that need to be brought to attention in analyses like those of the much maligned and misunderstood “critical race theory.”

(3) ideas about the nature of knowledge-construction – especially in fields like psychology, where conventions from the natural sciences are, at times, uncritically applied across incommensurate contexts to address psychological questions in fallacious and dehumanizing ways; this is discussed in more detail in the first section of this site (“Psychological Knowledge”), and is followed, in other sections, with numerous examples of some of the ways important psychological phenomena have been misunderstood by undervaluing qualitative research methods and/or by naively or incorrectly applying quantitative ones.

More generally, the pages of this website, at various times, critique all three of the above types of misunderstanding and how they occur in some commonly accepted theories and practices in the field of psychology. 

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