Recognitive freedom: Hegel and the problem of recognition

Critical Horizons 5 (1):271-295 (2004)
This paper examines the theme of recognition in Hegel's account of self-consciousness, suggesting that there are unresolved difficulties with the relationship between the normative sense of mutual recognition and phenomenological cases of unequal recognition. Recent readings of Hegel deal with this problem by positing an implicit distinction between an 'ontological' sense of recognition as a precondition for autonomous subjectivity, and a 'normative' sense of recognition as embodied in rational social and political institutions. Drawing on recent work by Robert Pippin and Axel Honneth, I argue that Hegel's conception of rational freedom provides the key to grasping the relationship between the ontological and normative senses of recognition. Recognitive freedom provides a way of appropriating Hegel's theory of recognition for contemporary social philosophy.
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