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14 - Giving an account of oneself amongst others: Hegel, Judith Butler and social ontology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Liz Disley
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Nicholas Boyle
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Liz Disley
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
John Walker
Affiliation:
Birkbeck College, University of London
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Summary

The concept of recognition in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit has had, and continues to have, a profound effect on twentieth-century philosophy. Emerging as a key topic in mid-twentieth-century Continental thought, the concept is more relevant than ever to early twenty-first-century philosophy on both sides of the Atlantic. Whilst philosophers writing in the Continental tradition have been more interested in the ontological conditions of recognition and the relation of this issue to questions of, as Lévinas would put it, first philosophy, the political connotations have not been neglected, and the question of the concept of recognition as a way of understanding the political has been explored in the works of Axel Honneth, Jürgen Habermas, Edith Düsing and Michael Theunissen, as well as Alexandre Kojève's original seminal interpretation.

These accounts and criticisms of Hegel's concept have attempted, to a greater or lesser extent, to flesh out the concept so that it might be useful in today's political world. Receptions of Hegel's concept of recognition in the English-speaking world have focused more strongly on the directly political and less on the concept of recognition as a part of Hegel's system in general, that is, less, if at all, on the ontological and epistemological aspects of the concept. One focus of this kind of interest in recognition is what Nancy Fraser calls the ‘identity model’, whose proponents

transpose the Hegelian recognition schema on to the cultural and political terrain [and] contend that to belong to a group that is devalued by the dominant culture is to be misrecognized, to suffer a distortion in one's relation to one's self.

This is one locus of the continued feminist interest in Hegel's theory of recognition, particularly combined with Miranda Fricker's recent work on epistemic injustice, although Simone de Beauvoir's more ontologically inclined analysis has remained influential, and the target of much criticism. The political debate on recognition has been truly international, and has crossed traditional disciplinary and subdisciplinary borders. An excellent example of this crossing can be seen in the 2003 volume, Redistribution or Recognition?, coauthored by Fraser and Honneth. Whilst the question of whether a Hegelian concept like recognition can be divorced from its ontological and dialectical scheme remains one which divides analytical and Continental philosophers, it would not be true to say that there are two separate and unconnected discussions taking place.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Impact of Idealism
The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought
, pp. 312 - 330
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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References

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