Cosmopolitanism, Identity and Recognition

By Stan van Hooft.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

An application of the social theory of Axel Honneth to global justice, arguing that development goals must include provision for the intersubjective recognition required for identity formation. In the disciplines of Political Philosophy and International Relations cosmopolitanism is often defined as the view that all people, no matter their national, ethnic or religious backgrounds and no matter what their gender, have an equal moral status. The most telling enunciation of this view is the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the focus that is given to rights and a global form of legal equality by this document and by such theorists as John Rawls is not rich enough to capture all of the ethical demands that global society places upon well-to-do Westerners and developed nations. This paper makes use of a thesis by Axel Honneth to the effect that political thinking needs “a basic conceptual shift to the normative premises of a theory of recognition that locates the core of all experiences of injustice in the withdrawal of social recognition, in the phenomena of humiliation and disrespect.” Honneth identifies three spheres of recognition in modern societies: love, law, and achievement. I offer some exposition of his theory and then argue that global justice must be understood to embrace the substantive ethical values that arise in these three spheres as well as the procedural standards of moral rightness that belongs to the second of them. Such an expanded conception of global justice will yield an enriched conception of cosmopolitanism.

Keywords: Cosmopolitanism, Identity, Recognition, Honneth, Global Justice, Development Ethics

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp.121-128. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 537.372KB).

Prof. Stan van Hooft

Associate Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia

Stan van Hooft is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Deakin University in Australia. He is the author of Caring: An Essay in the Philosophy of Ethics, (Niwot, University Press of Colorado, 1995) and numerous journal articles on moral philosophy, bioethics, business ethics, and on the nature of health and disease. He is also a co-author of Facts and Values: An Introduction to Critical Thinking for Nurses, (Sydney, MacLennan and Petty, 1995). His Life, Death, and Subjectivity: Moral Sources for Bioethics, was published by Rodopi (Amsterdam and New York) in 2004. Stan published two further books in 2006: Caring about Health, (Aldershot, Ashgate), and Understanding Virtue Ethics, (Chesham, Acumen Publishers). His current research centres on Global Ethics and the philosophy of Cosmopolitanism. He conducts Modern Socratic Dialogues in a variety of settings with professional groups, with the general public and with individuals.


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