A critic (derived from the ancient Greek word krites meaning a judge) is a person who offers a value judgement or an interpretation.
The term is used in particular for a professional who regularly judges or interprets performances or other work of other people (such as artists, scientists, musicians or actors) and publishes these judgements or interpretations in a periodical (often a newspaper, magazine, or academic journal). Critics often specialize in one field and are usually well educated in that field. Professional critics are numerous in the fields of art, music, film (see film critic), theatre, restaurants and scientific publication.
Criticism is the activity of judgement or interpretation. Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.
Although there can be both positive and negative aspects to criticism, one sense of the term emphasizes negative comments. A phrase such as "critics of Einstein argue that..." generally refers to people who are sceptical of the value of Einstein's position. In a different context, though, the use of critics in a similar phrase like "critics of Romantic poetry argue that..." often simply means the neutral activity of interpretation.
Critique, especially in philosophical contexts (where it is used to translate the German word Kritik), has a more clearly defined meaning than criticism. (Confusingly, the adjectival form of both critique and criticism is critical, making some uses ambiguous.)
In this context, a critique is a systematic inquiry into the conditions and consequences of a concept or set of concepts, and an attempt to understand its limitations. A critical perspective, in this sense, is the opposite of a dogmatic one. In philosophy this sense of the word was defined by Immanuel Kant, who 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).