Reason, recognition, and internal critique

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Normative political philosophy always refers to a standard against which a society's institutions are judged. In the first, analytical part of the article, the different possible forms of normative criticism are examined according to whether the standards it appeals to are external or internal to the society in question. In the tradition of Socrates and Hegel, it is argued that reconstructing the kind of norms that are implicit in practices enables a critique that does not force the critic's particular views on the addressee and can also be motivationally effective. In the second part of the article, Axel Honneth's theory of recognition is examined as a form of such reconstructive internal critique . It is argued that while the implicit norms of recognition made explicit in Honneth's philosophical anthropology help explain progressive social struggles as moral ones, his theory faces two challenges in justifying internal critique. The Priority Challenge asks for the reasons why the implicit norms of recognition should be taken as the standard against which other implicit and explicit norms are to be judged. The Application Challenge asks why a social group should, by its own lights, extend equal recognition to all its members and even non-members. The kind of functional, prudential, conceptual, and moral considerations that could serve to answer these challenges are sketched.
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Archival date: 2015-01-30
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