Reviewing Modjtaba Sadria's Argument

“From Critique in Modernity to Critique of Modernity”

                                                                                                  By Nazim Aman Hunzai

Modernity was a breakthrough in human history which simultaneously impacted human “built and lived environment” (Sadria 2009: 07). It challenged the prevalent ideas, ideals, behaviours, institutions and resulted into the quantitative transformation of practices and qualitative ruptures in human world views. However it is very difficult to assert a universally accepted basis for the definition of modernity. One of the approaches towards modernity may be phenomenological wherein the defining feature of modernity may be described as the social recognition of human autonomy as Sadria has pointed out (Ibid: 103-105).  This social recognition of human autonomy was underpinned and made possible by the radically critical attitude of modernity towards all pre-modern human life. Thus the legitimacy of being critical became the defining feature of modernity and paved the way for the social recognition of human autonomy. It is interesting to note that the legitimacy of the practice of critical attitude of modernity bounced back to modernity itself and ontologically made the critique of modernity itself legitimate and possible.

Sadria in the above titled essay has argued that legitimacy of critique of everything is one of the tangible elements of modernity. This tangible element of modernity applies to modernity itself also and thus he has argued that the legitimacy and the practice of criticizing modernity is actually fulfilling and strengthening the agenda of modernity.

In order to substantiate his point, firstly, he has provided an overview of different critical approaches towards modernity which are considered as legitimate by their proponents. It is in this context, wherein the critics of modernity claim their legitimacy in criticizing modernity; the writer has attempted to explore the epistemic foundations of critique and the incidence or the extent of its radicalism. In order to respond these questions the writer has examined the concept of criticism. In this part the writer has given an overview of different perspectives on criticism and then he has provided two important parameters to measure the concept of criticism. Based on these two parameters, the writer has explained four possible major approaches of criticism. In the end, very shortly, the writer has provided the fifth approach of criticism which highlights the epistemic commonality of the four approaches and strengthens the claim of the writer made in the beginning. In this essay an attempt has been made to provide a summary of the same essay in line with the same flow of argument.

There are multiple criticisms of modernity. The first category of criticism comes out of the works of the critics who are the part of the direct linage of modernity. This category of criticism stems out of the direct linage of the project of modernity. The best examples in this regard are the perspectives propounded by post-modernists and the colonial modernists who attack the enlightenment foundations and denounce the implications, mostly political, of modernity respectively. The second category of criticism stems out of the approach of the religious fundamentalists who criticise modernity from outside of modernity’s references. Within these broader categories there may be multiple criticisms of modernity. However the interrelationship of modernity and criticism are complex enough and may not be possible to define in a coherent manner. It is therefore of paramount importance to explain criticism as a specific category.

Although it is very difficult to define the concept of criticism but in the commonly accepted meaning it may be referred to the “evaluation and the judgement of an object” or something at hand (Ibid: 93). There are diverse approaches towards the concept of criticism sharing some commonalities and differences such as New Criticism, Postcolonial Criticism, Feminist Criticism, Reader Response Criticism and many others as has been highlighted by Sadria. These approaches do share many commonalities and have many overlapping but still each of them have a distinct focal point. This distinctiveness of each approach on the one hand makes multiple understandings of criticisms possible and on the other hand makes the judgement of criticism difficult in the sense that it will not adhere to a single yardstick to understand and to measure the concept and incidence of criticism.


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