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Criticism is the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another (the critic). To criticize does not necessarily imply to find fault, but the word is often taken to mean the simple expression of an objection against prejudice, or a disapproval.

Another meaning of criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature, social movements, film, arts, and similar objects and events. The goal of this type of criticism is to understand the work or event more thoroughly. Links to different types of criticism can be found at the bottom of this page.

Varieties of criticism

Logical and factual criticism

In a logical criticism, a objection is raised about a idea, argument, action or situation on the ground that it does not make rational sense (there is something wrong with it because is illogical, it does not follow, or it violates basic conventions of meaning). Such an objection usually refers to assumptions, coherence, implications and intent. Thus, the illogicality may involve that:

  • Something is being assumed or inferred improperly, without reasonable ground.
  • Something is internally inconsistent or self-contradictory, it is impossible to maintain all of its contents at one and the same time (because it would imply affirming and negating the same thing).
  • Something has implications or effects contrary to itself or negating it.
  • Something has effects contrary to its own purpose or intent, or contrary to the purpose or intent of someone concerned with it.
  • Something involves a language which superficially seems to make sense, but turns out to defy logical sense when examined more closely.

In a factual (empirical) criticism, an objection is raised about a idea, argument, action or situation on the ground that there is something wrong with the evidence of the known experience relevant to it. Typically,

  • Relevant purported facts are claimed to be false or implausible, i.e. not facts at all.
  • Relevant facts are said not to have been definitely established as true, or the likelihood that they are true, has not been established.
  • Relevant facts mentioned imply different stories which cannot be reconciled; accepting a fact would imply another fact which contradicts it in some way (there is overlap here with logical criticism).
  • The presentation of facts is biased; important relevant facts are left out of the story, or the total factual context is ignored.
  • Other relevant facts, which have not been mentioned, shed a different light on the issue.
  • Facts focused upon are not relevant to the purpose of those concerned.

Logical and factual criticism is generally considered important to ensure the consistency, authenticity and predictability of behaviour of any kind. Without the presence of the relevant consistency, authenticity and predictability, one cannot make appropriate sense of behaviour, which becomes disorienting and creates confusion, and therefore cannot guide behavioural choices effectively.

Negative and constructive criticism

Negative criticism means voicing an objection to something only with the purpose of showing that it is simply wrong, false, mistaken, nonsensical, objectionable, disreputable or evil. Negative criticism is also often interpreted as an attack against a person (ad hominem).

Constructive criticism aims to show that the intent or purpose of something is better served by an alternative approach. In this case, the target of criticism is not necessarily deemed wrong, and its purpose is respected; rather, it is claimed that the same goal could be better achieved via a different route.

Both negative and constructive criticism have their appropriate uses, but often it is considered a requirement of criticism that they are combined. Thus, it is often considered that those who find fault with something should also offer an option for putting it right.

Practical and theoretical criticism

Practical criticism is an objection of the type that something does not work in practical reality due to some reason or cause. Often people will say, "that might be fine in theory, but in practice it does not work". Practical criticism usually refers to relevant practical experience, to reveal why a practice is wrongheaded.

Theoretical criticism is concerned with the meaning of ideas, including ideas on which a practice is based. It is concerned with the coherence or meaningfulness of a theory, its correspondence to reality, the validity of its purpose, and the limitations of the viewpoint it offers. Theories can be criticized from the point of view of other theories.

Moral criticism and scientific criticism

Moral criticism is basically concerned with the rights and wrongs of values, ethics or norms which people uphold, or of the conditions which people face. There are many forms of moral criticism, such as:

  • Showing that actions taken are inconsistent or incompatible with certain values being upheld, or values deemed desirable.
  • Counterposing one set of values to another, with the claim that the one set is better than the other.
  • Arguing that certain values are intrinsically objectionable, regardless of any other values that may be relevant.
  • Arguing that certain values ought to be adopted, or rejected, for some reason.

Scientific criticism is not primarily concerned with moral values, but more with quantitative values. It focuses on whether something can be proved to be true or false, or what the limits of its valid application are, quite irrespective of whether people like that or not, or what the moral implications are. For this purpose, the scientist employs logic and relevant evidence offered by experience, as well as experimentation, and gives attention to the intent and purpose of relevant activity. Obviously a scientist is also a moral being with moral biases, but science aims to ensure that moral biases do not prejudice scientific findings (the requirement of objectivity). A scientist can also criticize a certain morality on scientific grounds, but in a scientific capacity he or she does not do so on the ground that the morality itself is intrinsically objectionable, but rather that "it flies in the face of the facts", i.e. it involves assumptions or valuations which are contrary to the known logical and factual evidence that is relevant.

Religious and scholarly criticism

The psychology of criticism

The psychology of criticism is primarily concerned with the motivation or intent which people have for making criticisms. The motivation may be rational or it may be non-rational or arbitrary; it may be healthy or unhealthy.

Criticism and narcissists

Vulnerability with their own self-esteem makes individuals with narcissistic personality disorder very sensitive to criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt them and leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow, and empty. They may react with disdain, narcissistic rage, or defiant narcissistic personality disorder.[1]

Narcissists are extremely sensitive to personal criticism and extremely critical of other people. They think they must be seen as perfect or superior or infallible or else they are worthless. There's no middle ground.[2]

The narcissist is constantly on the lookout for slights. He or she is hypervigilant. He or she perceives every disagreement as criticism and every critical remark as complete and humiliating rejection: nothing short of a threat.[3]

Criticism and paranoids

Individuals with paranoid personality disorder are often rigid, critical of others, although they have great difficulty accepting criticism themselves.[4]

Criticism and avoidants

Individuals with avoidant personality disorder are hypersensitive to criticism or rejection. They build up a defensive shell.

Criticism and dependents

Individuals with dependent personality disorder are readily willing to "self-correct" in response to criticism.

Constructive criticism

Constructive criticism, or constructive analysis, is a compassionate attitude towards the person qualified for criticism. Having higher experience, gifts, respect, knowledge in specific field and being able to verbally convince at the same time, this person is intending to uplift the other person materially, morally, emotionally or spiritually. For high probability in succeeding compassionate criticism, the critic has to be in some kind of healthy personal relationship with the other one, which is normally a parent to child, friend to friend, teacher to student, spouse to spouse or any kind of recognized authority in specific field. Hence the word constructive is used so that something is created or visible outcome generated rather than the opposite. Participatory learning in pedagogy is based on these principles of constructive criticism, focusing on positive examples to be emulated over precepts to be followed.

There can be tension between friendly support and useful criticism. A critic might usefully help an individual artist to recognize what is poor or slapdash in their body of work, but the critic may appear harsh and judgmental in the process. Useful criticism is a practical part of constructive criticism.


Template:Ambox/small Hypercriticism is a feature of certain personality types and is colloquially known as nitpicking or nagging. Nitpicking is minute, trivial, unnecessary, and unjustified criticism or faultfinding.[5] Nagging is to scold, complain, or find fault constantly.[6]


Template:Ambox/small Hypocriticism is criticism by somebody (a hypocrite) who criticizes another but does the same as the person they are criticizing.[citation needed]


Self-criticism (or auto-critique) refers to the pointing out of things critical/important to one's own beliefs, thoughts, actions, behaviour or results; it can form part of private, personal reflection or a group discussion. Most people regard self-criticism as healthy and necessary for learning, but excessive or enforced self-criticism as unhealthy.

See also


External links

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