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The Ideal of Recognition in Contemporary Normative Theory

Convenor

Nick French; nick.french@berkeley.edu


Recognition and closely related notions have played prominent roles in recent moral, political, and social theory. It is central to Louis Althusser’s account of ideology and accounts of ideology inspired by it, which understand recognition to be a central mechanism by which dominant classes secure the cooperation and consent of the dominated. Recognition is also crucial to the critical theory of Axel Honneth, who sees relations of mutual recognition as the ultimate goal of emancipatory social struggles and as an immanent ideal with which to criticize existing social practices. T.M. Scanlon’s influential contractualist theory of morality uses the notion of mutual recognition to explain our reasons for caring about our moral obligations to fellow persons. Philosophers such as Stephen Darwall and R. Jay Wallace have appealed to notions of interpersonal respect and recognition to illuminate practices of moral accountability (e.g., blame and apology) and authority relations. And of course, the notion of recognition has been central to attempts to theorize social movements associated with multiculturalism and identity politics.

These thinkers and others have invoked different conceptions of recognition for a variety of explanatory purposes. This workshop aims to bring together theorists working on topics related to the notion of recognition from diverse normative disciplines and theoretical perspectives, from both “analytic” and “Continental” backgrounds, with the hope of generating fruitful dialogue across different approaches.

We are interested in exploring questions such as the following:

  • What is the relationship between various conceptions of recognition? For example, what is the relationship between value-neutral conceptions of recognition (like Althusser’s) and conceptions of recognition as a positive value (such as Honneth’s or Scanlon’s)?
  • Can a single notion of recognition play multiple theoretical roles—for instance, articulating both the driving force of emancipatory social struggles and an ideal of personal morality?
  • Can recognition provide an overarching framework for addressing questions of social justice, or must it be supplemented by other concepts (e.g., that of distributive justice)?
  • What is the relationship between the recently much discussed phenomenon of “bipolar obligations” and mutual recognition? Between mutual recognition and Darwall’s “second-personal reasons”?
  • Most theorists of recognition see a connection between that notion and that of autonomy. How should we understand the relationship of different conceptions of recognition to autonomy of various kinds (personal, moral, political)?
  • How might conceptual or empirical work in moral psychology inform our thinking about recognition?

If you wish to present a paper at the workshop, please submit a 300-500 word abstract of your paper, prepared for blind review, by Sunday, May 16.

Email all abstracts and inquiries to Nick French (nick.french@berkeley.edu).

Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified within two weeks. We are aiming to provide each speaker 15-20 minutes to present and then 25-30 minutes for Q&A.