Social Criticism, Moral Reasoning and the Literary Form


  • Leonidas Tsilipakos University of Bristol



Critical Theory, moral reasoning, literary form, Alice Crary, Peter Winch


Widely chosen by students of society as an approach under which to labour, emancipatory, liberatory or, otherwise put, critical social thought occupies a position between knowledge and practical action whose coherence is taken for granted on account of the pressing nature of the issues it attempts to deal with. As such it is rarely subjected to scrutiny and the methodological, conceptual and moral challenges it faces are not properly identified. The contribution of this article is to raise these problems into view clearly and unambiguously. This is undertaken via a careful examination of Alice Crary’s recent work, in which she attempts, firstly, to defend a left-Hegelian version of Critical Theory by relating it to the work of Peter Winch and, second, to issue a set of methodologically radical recommendations on employing the sensibility-shaping powers of the literary form. The article aims to deepen our understanding of the fundamental tensions between the Critical Theory and Wittgensteinian traditions, which Crary attempts to bring together and, ultimately, of those crucial features of our moral practices that frustrate the enterprise of critical social thought.

Author Biography

Leonidas Tsilipakos, University of Bristol

Leonidas Tsilipakos is Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bristol. He has written on the Wittgensteinian and Ordinary Language Philosophy traditions in relation to logical and ethical problems in the social sciences. He is author of Clarity and Confusion in Social Theory: Taking Concepts Seriously (Routledge, 2015).