Misrecognition, Misrecognition, and Fallibility

Res Publica 18 (1):25-38 (2012)
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Misrecognition from other individuals and social institutions is by its dynamic or ‘logic’ such that it can lead to distorted relations-to-self, such as self-hatred, and can truncate the development of the central capabilities of persons. Thus it is worth trying to shed light on how mis recognition differs from adequate recognition, and on how mis recognition might differ from other kinds of mistreatment and disregard. This paper suggests that mis recognition (including nonrecognition) is a matter of inadequate responsiveness to the normatively relevant features of someone (their personhood, merits, needs etc.), and that if the kind of mistreatment in question obeys the general dynamic or ‘logic’ of mutual recognition and relations-to-self, then it may be called ‘misrecognition’. Further, this article considers the multiple connections between misrecognition and human fallibility. The capacity to get things wrong or make mistakes (that is, fallibility) is first of all a condition of misrecognition. Furthermore, there are two lessons that we can draw from fallibility. The first one points towards minimal objectivism: if something is to count as a mistake or incorrect response, there must accordingly exist a fact of the matter or a correct response. The other lesson points towards public equality: if our capacity to get things right on our own is limited, then public, shared norms will probably help. Such norms are easier to know and follow than objective normative truths, and they may contain collective cumulative wisdom; and of course the process of creating public norms embodies in itself an important form of mutual recognition between citizens.

Author's Profile

Arto Laitinen
Tampere University


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