Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Hegel and Nietzsche: Recognition and Master/slave

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Hegel and Nietzsche: Recognition and Master/slave

Article excerpt

One of Hegel's main contributions to critical theory is his concept of recognition and the related concepts of master and slave. For these have become central to any account of oppression, marginal ization, and communicative freedom or liberation. Hegel's analysis of desire, the need to raise parochial self-- certainty to public, intersubjective truth, the life and death struggle for recognition, the constitution of the slave as the one who fears death and who works off his fear, and the final self-subversion of mastery are important themes for critical theory from Marx through Habermas and Honneth.1 However to take up the themes of recognition and master/slave is to find oneself confronted with an alternative, possibly incompatible interpretation of master and slave, namely Nietzsche's. But is Nietzsche's account of master morality and slave morality opposed to Hegel? After all, both see master and slave as posing fundamental obstacles and problems for the realization of autonomous freedom. Moreover, both Hegel and Nietzsche agree that the slave is successful in rebelling against the master, although they interpret this success quite differently. For Hegel it constitutes a potential, if not actual, liberation, whereas for Nietzsche it is an historical and cultural catastrophe that has produced the herd morality. Recently Gilles Deleuze has claimed that Nietzsche's genealogy of morals undermines Hegel's account and provides the true critical theory of domination.2

Thanks to Deleuze we are thus plunged into the middle of what Daniel Breazeale has aptly called "The Hegel-Nietzsche Problem."3 The "Hegel-Nietzsche problem" was identified long ago by Karl Joel, who wrote: "Hegel and Nietzsche! Here lies a problem yet to be solved."4 Joel's "problem" has received some attention, but the relation between Hegel's thought and Nietzsche's has never been adequately sorted out, much less resolved. The question is whether Hegel and Nietzsche are mutually exclusive, or whether, in spite of obvious and important differences, there are also significant convergences.5

According to the conventional "wisdom" of much contemporary philosophy, Nietzsche and Hegel are opposites. For example, critical theorists like Habermas and deconstructionists like Derrida, who otherwise disagree, both affirm that Hegel and Nietzsche are opposites. Deleuze also belongs to this camp. On the other hand, Walter Kaufmann represents what Breazeale has called the rapprochement thesis. Kaufmann claims that between Hegel and Nietzsche there is "a truly amazing parallel."6 According to Kaufmann, both are dialectical monists who conceive of free self realization as a process developing through opposition and the overcoming of opposition. Both share a common term for self-overcoming, namely, aufheben, sublimieren. Although not everyone agrees with Kaufmann's interpretation, several philosophers accept the rapprochement thesis, including Daniel Breazeale, Judith Butler, Stephen Houlgate, Eliot Jurist, Philip J. Kain, Richard Rorty, Stanley Rosen, Robert Solomon, and Alan White.7 Rosen's acerbic comment sums up this unorganized camp: "those who insist on a sharp juxtaposition between Hegel and Nietzsche have understood neither one nor the other."8 But of this group, only two-Houlgate and Jurist-have produced book length studies, the former on Hegel and Nietzsche as critics of metaphysics, and the latter on their theories of agency and culture. Meanwhile, Philosopher's Index shows fewer than five journal articles on Hegel's and Nietzsche's accounts of master and slave.

Deleuze's study of master/slave remains the most extensive to date; it presents a Nietzschean critique of Hegel that has shaped the current consensus. I shall examine Deleuze's account, which contends that recognition is inherently servile, and that Hegel's master, who depends on the slave's recognition, is for this reason likewise a slave. I shall offer criticisms of Deleuze's reading of Hegel's dialectic, recognition and master/slave. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.