Degree Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Politics

Advisor(s)

Sonia Kruks

Committee Member(s)

Harlan Wilson

Keywords

Recognition, Freedom, G.W.F. Hegel, Theodor Adorno, Charles Taylor

Abstract

This thesis conducts a close reading of G.W.F. Hegel's theory of mutual recognition and Charles Taylor's contemporary reworking of the theory. It is argued that theories of mutual recognition contain a problematic bias toward unity and harmony that obscures the ways in which struggles for recognition are often incomplete and open to contestation. More specifically, what is subject to critique in this thesis is what I term a “genus-species” model of difference, which treats particular differences—-of individuals or of specific cultures—-as stable subsets of a broader genus. I contend that this model of difference, when applied to theories of recognition, risks two major problems: 1) it tends to overemphasize the importance of shared cultural frameworks to human agency, and thus potentially misrecognizes particular differences within these frameworks; 2) it fails to capture an important aspect of human freedom, which involves moving beyond established horizons of recognition to create new values. A different picture of recognition is suggested via the work of Theodor Adorno. The concept of mimesis, understood as the subject’s ability to assimilate him or herself to a specific Other and grapple with his or her particularity, is advanced as an alternative to the totalizing horizons of recognition described by Hegel and Taylor, and thus as an alternative model of human freedom.

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