After rereading Lecture I of Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of Scientists, I considered how Althusser’s explanation of philosophy’s ideological, theoretical function would bear on media theory. Is media theory a particular philosophy the theses of which intervene against idealist philosophies within the humanities? If so, then it becomes outmoded in the course of its functioning, especially to the extent that it succeeds. (This was the contention made by several German media theorists in 2009, when media philosophy had established itself officially in the German university system.)

As Althusser would say, media theory, insofar as it operates philosophically, draws “a line of demarcation” between what is idealist or ideological and what is materialist or scientific in the human sciences. For the latter criteria for knowledge derive from the object and not from an external preconception. It helps to delineate the “correct” (juste) path in the creation of knowledge. To adopt this perspective would also entail that insofar as media theory seems to produce knowledge, it does not do so qua media theory but, rather, through whatever host discipline it has engaged in correction.


Althusser, Louis. “Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists (1967).” In Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists, translated by Warren Montag, 69–165. Verso, 1990.