On the Scope of ‘Recognition’: The Role of Adequate Regard and Mutuality

In Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch & Christopher Zurn (eds.), The Philosophy of Recognition. Lexington. pp. 319-342 (2010)

Arto Laitinen
Tampere University
A conflict arises from two basic insights concerning what recognition is. I call them the mutuality–insight and the adequate regard–insight. The former is the idea that recognition involves inbuilt mutuality: ego has to recognize the alter as a recognizer in order that the alter’s views may count as recognizing the ego. There always needs to be two–way recognition for even one–way recognition to take place. The adequate regard –insight in turn is that we do not merely desire to be classified as recognizers, but to be treated adequately, in the light of any and all of our normatively relevant features. Both of these insights build on a third central idea, that recognition from others matters because it is relevant to one’s practical relations–to–self: say, respect from others is relevant for self–respect. But crucially for this paper, the two insights pull in different directions – they are in tension when it comes to deciding the scope of “recognition”. This paper is an attempt to negotiate the tension by comparing and assessing more and less restricted views on “recognition”. I discuss four issues on which definitions of recognition may be more or less restricted. The first question concerns the scope of possible recipients of recognition, and the second question possible recipient-dependent conceptual restrictions on whether recognition has taken place at all. On these questions I try to be true to both of the two conflicting insights. The mutuality–insight leads naturally to a strict conception of recognition (only recognizers can be recognized; recognition takes place only when two–way recognition takes place). By contrast, the adequate regard –insight leads to an unrestricted view (also other beings than recognizers can be treated adequately, and one–way adequate regard is conceptually possible). I argue that the tension between these is best negotiated by a two–part story, which will distinguish terminologically recognizing (and being recognized) from successfully giving and getting recognition. It is slightly unfortunate to have to draw such technical terminological distinctions, but drawing this distinction helps to make substantive points that upon reflection need to be made, given the mutuality–insight and adequate regard–insight. Or so I argue. The other two questions are: what sort of responses to what sort of features amount to recognition. Again, the adequate regard –insight would lead to an unrestricted normativist view: any kinds of responses that are normatively called for by any normatively relevant features may be cases of recognition. The mutuality – insight might motivate a narrower suggestion developing the idea that only other recognizers (or persons) can be recipients of recognition : only the kind of features that can only be had by other recognizers (or persons) can serve as the basis of recognition, and only the kind of responses, which are forms of taking the other as a recognizer (or a person) count as recognizing . I will argue that while such responses to such features are an important subclass of recognition, the unrestricted normativist view captures the full scope of recognition better. We should not in advance define recognition in a restricted way which rules some cases out (even though the mutuality–insight might seem to motivate some restrictions). We can fully preserve the force of the mutuality–insight with the two–part story, without restricting the scope of features and responses that amount to recognition.
Keywords Mutual recognition  mutuality  Adequate regard  Axel Honneth  G.W.F Hegel
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