Critical Theory: Critical Methodology to Disciplinary Foundations in Nursing

Judy E Mill, Marion N. Allen, Raymond A. Morrow


Increasingly in the nursing literature, theorists have examined the use of critical theory in nursing (especially as understood by Habermas) and many have advocated it as a research approach to guide knowledge development in nursing. There has been limited analysis, however, of critical theory's broader foundational implications for the discipline of nursing. Part of the difficulty stems from a failure to differentiate between the implications of Habermas's earlier work on knowledge interests and his later theory of communicative action. In this paper, Habermas's critical theory is explored along two dimensions: as a metatheoretical account of a methodology of critical theory as a research tradition; and as a theory of communicative action whose dialogical and normative assumptions have profound implications for a postfoundationalist grounding of nursing as a discipline and professional practice. The authors argue that critical theory is necessary for nursing and may be sufficient as a paradigmatic philosophical base for the discipline.

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