Social Freedom and Self-Actualization: “Normative Reconstruction” as a Theory of Justice

Critical Horizons 16 (2):153-169 (2015)

Abstract
In Freedom's Right Axel Honneth seeks to provide a theory of justice by appropriating Hegel's account of ethical substance in the Philosophy of Right, but he wants to do so without endorsing Hegel's more robust idealist commitments. I argue that this project can only succeed if Honneth can offer an alternative, comparatively robust demonstration of the rationality and normative coherence of existing social institutions. I contend that the grounds Honneth provides for this claim are insufficient for his purposes. In particular, I argue that Honneth's claim that “justice and individual self-determination are mutually referential,” even were it to be accepted, would be insufficient to underwrite his more robust identification between the normative foundations of justice, autonomy and reciprocal self-realization. In the final section of the paper, I turn to Honneth's analysis of the “social institution” of friendship, which he, following Hegel, holds up as a paradigmatic instantiation of social freedom understood as, in Hegel's words, “being with oneself in another” . I argue that an analysis of the normative import of friendship wholly in terms of mutual recognition misses an important aspect of the kind of self-realization that friendship makes possible
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DOI 10.1179/1440991715z.00000000045
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The Independence of Moral Theory.John Rawls - 1974 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 48:5 - 22.
Grounding Recognition: A Rejoinder to Critical Questions.Axel Honneth - 2002 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 45 (4):499 – 519.

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