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Honneth - Grounding Recognition

Honneth - Grounding Recognition

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Published by: Echo Unit on Oct 19, 2010
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Symposium on Axel Honneth and Recognition
Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder toCritical Questions*
Axel Honneth
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universita¨t, Frankfurt am Main
It is always great good fortune for an author to have his writings meet with areceptive circle of readers who take them up in their own work and clarifythem further. Indeed, it may even be the secret of all theoretical productivitythat one reaches an opportune point in one’s own creative process whenothers’ queries, suggestions, and criticisms give one no peace, until one hasbeen forced to come up with new answers and solutions. The four essayscollected here, in any event, jointly represent an ideal form of such achallenge: I am now compelled to make further theoretical developments andclarications that lead me to a whole new stage of my own endeavours, wellbeyond what I initially had in mind in
The Struggle for Recognition
. For thisreason, I will not concentrate here on interpretative issues regarding myearlier work but will instead take up the problems and challenges that haveoccasioned several revisions on my part. For this reason, it makes sense tobegin (in section I) with the points that Carl-Go¨ran Heidegren makes, in termsof a history of social theory, regarding my proposed theory of recognition.The issues that still motivate me today can best be expressed via anengagement with the conscientious interpretations he offers. The core of thisrejoinder is based on Heikki Ika¨heimo’s and Arto Laitinen’s suggestions andcorrections, which they have used to develop my initial approach further, tothe point where the theoretical outlines of a precise and general concept of recognition come into view. It is primarily these two contributions that helpedme develop a productive elaboration of my originally vague intuitions(section II). By way of conclusion (in section III), I take up the penetratingquestions raised by Antti Kauppinen regarding the use of the concept of recognition in the broader context of social criticism; he has compelled me totake on several extremely helpful clarications, and they give me theopportunity, in conclusion, to summarize my overarching intentions.
* Translated by Joel Anderson.
, 45, 499–520
2002 Taylor & Francis
In his attempt to reconstruct the emergence of my model of recognition out of the interplay of ‘philosophical anthropology, social theory, and politics’,Carl-Go¨ran Heidegren is right to attribute a certain priority to philosophicalanthropology. My thinking was indeed shaped from the outset by themethodological attitude of the tradition founded in the rst third of thetwentieth century by Max Scheler, Helmuth Plessner, and Arnold Gehlen;despite all the conservative tendencies that could be identied in the contentof this tradition, I still consider it to be an enormous contribution that, in theirreexive analysis of the structures of our lifeworld, they (unlike Heidegger)took an empirical approach and thereby systematically integrated results fromvarious disciplines within the human sciences.
The special insight to whichsuch a philosophical anthropology leads can, I believe, now sensibly bereformulated in John McDowell’s terminology: in the ongoing course of history, which itself must not be conceived in purely scientistic terms, thehuman lifeworld can be understood as the result of the emergence of a‘second nature’, in which we habitually orient ourselves in a changing ‘spaceof reasons’. I am convinced that philosophical anthropology could be broughteven further up to date if one were to consider the additional convergences of these two approaches regarding their concept of value, their admission of biological constraints, and their concept of perception;
but these initialsuggestions are enough, for present purposes, to make clear that, in the wakeof the excesses of linguistic analysis and historicism, philosophicalanthropology is still exceedingly relevant. When we also take into accountthe work of Charles Taylor and Harry Frankfurt over the past few decades, wecan perhaps say that the existential structures of human beings’ second natureare now being studied from the perspective of a linguistically informedphenomenology for which scientic results are not without systematicsignicance.The above attempt to update my theoretical work should not misleadanyone about the fact that initially, without really having thought through themethodology, I had set out to employ the young Hegel’s model of recognitionas the key to specifying the universal conditions under which human beingscan form an identity; the underlying intention was basically to conceptualizethe structures of mutual recognition analysed by Hegel not merely aspreconditions for self-consciousness but as practical conditions for thedevelopment of a positive relation-to-self. This led me, in the form of an‘empirically informed phenomenology’, to differentiate the three forms of recognition to which Heidegren’s essay refers, in their original characteriza-tion; in the second part of this rejoinder, I shall address the question of how Inow view this differentiation, in light of the aforementioned methodology. Inany case, Heidegren is right that, already at that time, my core idea was to500
Axel Honneth
distinguish these modes of mutual recognition according to the constitutivecontribution that each makes to enabling a distinct form of relation-to-self; inthis connection, I wasaided by the factthat it wasrather easy to see how ErnstTugendhat’s related discussion
could be developed in a way thatsupplemented the familiar aspect of self-respect with a consideration of theother two dimensions of basic self-condence and self-esteem. Thusemerged, out of a somewhat forced reinterpretation of the young Hegel(inuenced, in particular, by the results of my work on the concept of theperson), the distinction between the three modes of recognition – love, rights,and solidarity –with which I am still working today, albeit ina modiedform.In
The Struggle for Recognition
, I had not really worked out whether thesethree modes were to be conceived of as constants of human nature or as theresult of historical processes. The whole tone and argumentation did clearlysuggest that the various forms of recognition could only have been intendedas universal conditions for positive human relation-to-self; at the same time, Ihad given the distinction between legal respect and social esteem a historicalfoundation, at least in so far as I had interpreted it as the result of thetraditional concept of honour splitting into a universalistic moral element anda meritocratic element.
I now distinguish much more sharply than in myoriginal approach between ‘anthropological’ starting conditions and histori-cal contingency: although the human form of life as a whole is marked by thefact that individuals can gain social membership and thus a positive relation-to-self only via mutual recognition, its form and content change during thedifferentiation of normatively regulated spheres of action.
In this way, it alsobecomes clearer how to view the internal link to the second theoreticaldomain mentioned in Heidegren’s title. I currently see the connectionbetween philosophical anthropology and social theory as lying in thenormative conditions for social integration: individuals can become membersof society only by developing, via the experience of mutual recognition, anawareness of how rights and duties are reciprocally distributed in the contextof particular tasks. In this way, the use of the concept of recognition allowsthe normative implications that are necessarily inherent in every social theoryto emerge from both directions: from one direction, individual opportunitiesfor a positive relation-to-self depend on conditions that are social in character,since they comprise normatively regulated forms of mutual recognition; fromthe other direction, a given society’s chance of meeting with the uncoercedsupport of its members depends on its ability to organize the relations of recognition in a way that enables the individual development of those positiveforms of relation-to-self. I am thus more strongly convinced than ever beforethat an account of society will end up on the wrong theoretical track unless itis developed, from the outset, in terms of normative concepts.Of course, none of these points touches the two issues that Heidegrenplaces in the centre of his reconstruction. He is quite right that I am not
Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions

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