Two Concepts of Recognition

Adam Chmielewski
Google Scholar Adam Chmielewski


The aim of this paper is to submit the doctrine of methodological individualism to a reconsideration from the point of view of the arguments formulated by contemporary communitarian philosophy. I propose to approach the opposition between the individual and the community, constitutive for the liberal– communitarian debate, by means of two concepts, i.e. those of recognition and order. I argue that for the individualists a social order emerges through a process of mutual recognition of the pre-existing individuals and their interests, while the communitarians claim that the task of individuals is to recognize values and norms of a pre-existing social order which is to become their own. The difference between them thus resides primarily in the ontological distinction between the respective objects of these two divergent concepts of recognition. The argument is developed through an analysis of David Hume’s concept of the individual. In opposition to some communitarian claims, I maintain that his approach may be interpreted as an antecedent of the communitarian views on the subject. I also outline a view of moral rules as neither universal, absolutist, nor purely emotivist in character, but as social constructions endowed with the status of “contingent permanence.”

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