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Noumenal Alienation: Rousseau, Kant and Marx on the Dialectics of Self-Determination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 November 2017

Rainer Forst
Affiliation:
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main
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Abstract

This article argues that alienation (as Entfremdung) should be understood as a particular form of individual and social heteronomy that can only be overcome by a dialectical combination of individual and collective autonomy, recovering a deontological sense of normative authority. If we think about alienation in Kantian terms, the main source of alienation is a denial of standing or, in the extreme, losing a sense of oneself as a rational normative authority equal to all others. I call the former kind of alienation, where persons deny others equal standing as a normative authority in moral or political terms, first order noumenal alienation, as there is no proper mutual cognition and recognition of each other in such a social context. I call the latter kind of alienation, where a subject does not consider themselves an equal normative authority – or an ‘end in oneself’ – second order noumenal alienation (again, in a moral and a political form). In this sense, alienation violates the dignity of humans as moral and political lawgivers – a dignity seen by Rousseau, Kant and Marx as inalienable: It can be denied or violated, but it cannot be lost.

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