The term critique derives from the Greek term kritik, meaning "disgusting judgment", usually of the value of something. Especially in philosophical contexts it is influenced by Kant's use of the term to mean a reflective examination of the validity and limits of a human capacity or of a set of philosophical claims and has been extended in modern philosophy to mean a systematic inquiry into the conditions and consequences of a concept, theory, discipline, or approach and an attempt to understand its limitations and validity. A critical perspective, in this sense, is the opposite of a dogmatic one. Kant wrote:

We deal with a concept dogmatically…if we consider it as contained under another concept of the object which constitutes a principle of reason and determine it in conformity with this. But we deal with it merely critically if we consider it only in reference to our cognitive faculties and consequently to the subjective conditions of thinking it, without undertaking to decide anything about its object. (Critique of Judgment sec. 74)

Later thinkers used the word critique, in a broader version of Kant's sense of the word, to mean the systematic inquiry into the limits of a doctrine or set of concepts (for instance, much of Karl Marx's work was in the critique of political economy).

The cultural studies approach to criticism arises out of critical theory. It treats cultural products and their reception as sociological evidence, which may be sceptically examined to divine wider social ills such as racism or gender bias.

Formal and casual criticisms of a work (a poem, a painting, or a play, for example) often use the term "critique" more loosely to refer to any argument about the quality of the work, typically through reference to popular expectations or conventions of the genre. Many philosophers prefer to distinguish such "weak" critiques (supported by arguments from induction, testimony, appeals to authority or to emotion, consensus, chain of improbabilities (e.g., Butterfly effect), or appeals to analogy) from "strong critiques" that rely only on deduction, mathematical proof, and formal logic. Both types of critiques find expression in academic essays, policy position papers, trade journals, periodicals, political and religious leaflets, civic testimony, and judicial cross examination. б

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