Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Recognition Reconsidered: A Re-Reading of Heidegger's Being and Time §26

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Recognition Reconsidered: A Re-Reading of Heidegger's Being and Time §26

Article excerpt

Perhaps one of the most celebrated motifs in modern philosophy is the "struggle for recognition" as presented in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Most noteworthy are his accounts of domination and liberation (beherrschen, befreien) and dependence and independence (Unselbstständigkeit, Selbstständigkeit) and the dialectical ways that they interrelate to form an account of recognition. Hegel's account has inspired a vast literature on the topic of recognition spanning from Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser, Jürgen Habermas, and Anthony Appiah,1 to Emmanuel Lévinas, Giorgio Agamben, and Jean-Luc Nancy,2 to Paul Ricoeur.3 This topic continues to be one of great significance today in ethics and in social and poUtical thought. One place, however, where the notion of recognition is rarely (if ever) mentioned is in connection with Martin Heidegger.4

In what follows, I argue that, notwithstanding his explicit intentions to the contrary, Heidegger's existential analysis provides not only conditions for the possibility of thinking about recognition, but an account of recognition. To be clear, even though Heidegger does not provide a full-fledged theory of recognition, he gives us more than the mere conditions for the possibility of considering it. That is, Heidegger provides a phenomenological elaboration of the notion of recognition with normative impUcations, thereby going beyond the merely transcendental aspect of his project. In order to demonstrate that Heidegger provides such an account, I examine Being and Time §26, where he distinguishes between leaping in and dominating the other and leaping ahead and freeing the other.5 Departing slightly from the spirit of Heidegger's self-understanding, I contend that the ethical dimensions impUcit in his account far exceed the Uteral existential analysis and indeed, anything Heidegger himself imagined for fundamental ontology based upon that analysis. My argument unfolds in three main steps:

First - in a section that comprises the bulk of this article - I cite and analyze Heidegger's discussion of soücitude (Fürsorge), where I claim that his account of recognition can be found. Heidegger identifies three extreme possibilities of solicitude: indifference (or deficient modes) and two positive modes: leaping in (einspringen) and dominating the other, on the one hand, and leaping ahead (vorspringen, vorausspringen, entspringen) and freeing the other, on the other hand.

Second, I sketch the positions of two central players in the contemporary literature on recognition - Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth - and examine some key tenets that define their respective positions.

Third, I reexamine what Heidegger says about solicitude in terms of these contemporary accounts of recognition and I argue that Heidegger's fundamental ontology can provide an account of recognition.

My aim is to demonstrate that Heidegger does not make good on his claim for the ethical neutrality of his analysis. Heidegger claims that fundamental ontology is ethically neutral insofar as it provides the conditions for the possibility of ethics without any ethical content, i.e., without being an ethical theory that prescribes either specific or general imperatives, norm, rules, or guidance in particular situations. There is thus a sense in which Heidegger is right in claiming that Being and Time is not an "ethics" in any traditional sense of the term. Traditionally, ethics has been rooted in a "subject": a single, stable, essential being to whom moral responsibiUty, obligation, praise, and blame can be attributed. Given that Heidegger overturns this traditional notion of subjectivity with his account of Dasein, it is the case that ethics in any traditional sense indeed is absent from Being and Time. But matters are not that simple, for although Heidegger overturns the notion of subjectivity (thereby overturning the traditional discipUne of ethics), in Being and Time he retains many ethically charged concepts (i. …

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