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Misrecognition, mutual Recognition and Forgiveness in Hegel and Ricoeur

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Hegel vs. Ricoeur: a fresh look at recognition and forgiveness

A cross-comparison of the works of two great European philosophers from the last two centuries can shed light on overcoming current societal challenges such as mutual recognition of co-existing communities.

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The late German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and late French philosopher Paul Ricoeur have contributed much to discourse on concepts such as mutual recognition and forgiveness, each in his own way. With this in mind the EU-funded HEGELANDRICOEUR (Misrecognition, mutual recognition and forgiveness in Hegel and Ricoeur) project investigated the concept of mutual recognition from the philosophers’ different perspectives. It also compared how Ricoeur and Hegel interpreted the dynamics surrounding misrecognition, mutual recognition and forgiveness, examining convergences and divergences to further recognition theories. Keeping in mind that Ricoeur had lived after Hegel, the project team studied Ricoeur’s notes on Hegel and the latter’s theories. The team looked at how Ricoeur interpreted Hagel’s dialectical negation on misrecognition (e.g. struggle, crime, evil) among other ideas of the German philosopher. This includes how both saw the relationship between selfhood and otherness, as well as Ricoeur’s views on Hegel’s comprehension of the ‘tragic wellspring of action’. The project successfully identified where Ricoeur’s confrontation with Hegel’s thought is articulated, namely in the anti-hegelianism of the early 1950s, as well as in the creative appropriation of Hegel’s notions on mediation and thought. Exploring Ricoeur’s lectures on negation, the project team shed light on the philosopher’s resistance towards Hegel’s dialectics. It underlined Ricoeur’s disparate forms of negation, touching on an absolutisation of opposition and of mediation, as well as on forms of negativity such as evil and non-sense. This ultimately shed important insight on Ricoeur’s position on the role of conflict and mediation in social life. Another project achievement involved identifying Ricoeur’s views on Hegel’s theory of ethical life (Sittlichkeit), positioning it between ideology and utopia. This also helped clarify post-hegelian Kantianism in novel ways. Moreover, the project team reconstructed the significant shifts characterising Ricoeur’s interpretation of the dialectics related to evil and forgiveness, demonstrating how the French philosopher appropriated Hegel’s horizontal conception of forgiveness. The team went further in clarifying how Ricoeur articulated this horizontal conception of forgiveness and of recognition with the vertical one, the latter having been theologically inspired by St. Paul. Overall the project bears on societal challenges today such as coexistence and mutual recognition among communities with different values. The project’s results are slated to feed into a comprehensive publication on Ricoeur’s ambiguous relationship with Hegel’s legacy, from dialectics and practical philosophy to the interpretation of religious symbols. This could contribute to the age-old challenge of fostering mutual coexistence and promoting forgiveness in trouble spots around the world.


Hegel, Ricoeur, HEGELANDRICOEUR, misrecognition, mutual recognition, forgiveness

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