Contempt, Respect, and Recognition

Critical Horizons 23 (3):211-226 (2022)
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Since the early modern period, the vast majority of philosophers who have written on contempt have understood it as a denial of respect. But there has been considerable disagreement about precisely what kind of respect we deny people when we contemn them. Contemporary philosophers who defend contempt as a morally appropriate attitude tend to understand it as a denial of what Stephen Darwall calls appraisal respect, while early modern writers, who all believe that contemning others constitutes a serious moral wrong, seem to understand it more as a denial of recognition respect. In this paper, I argue that neither of these understandings of contempt hits the mark and that we do better to conceptualize it as a denial of recognition in the sense articulated by Axel Honneth and by other critical theorists who have been influenced by his work.

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Bryan Lueck
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville


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