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What Does Hegel Mean By 'recognition' (Annerkenung)? What Role Does This Notion Play In The Master/Slave Dialectic?

3825 words - 16 pages

What does Hegel mean by 'recognition' (Annerkenung)? What role does this notion play in the master/slave dialectic?In this essay I will begin by putting the dialectic into context. I will then discuss the various interpretations on the dialectic in order to try to understand what Hegel was trying to say. It is in the development of the understanding of the dialectic that meaning and significance of recognition becomes clear.This problem is essentially a problem developed out of the ideas of Fichte - in his search for freedom and rights - and is representative of Hegel's general philosophy. Hegel uses the dialectic as a step towards freedom as the ultimate goal. The problem is how we can ...view middle of the document...

To understand the master/slave dialectic it is necessary to understand desire as Hegel's second step self-consciousness. A person, after acknowledging themselves, begins by recognising other objects as existing. There is an acknowledgement that things other than the self exist. The fact that this thing (be it a pen, a table, or anything else) exists presents a threat to the freedom of the individual. How can the individual be free in every sense if there are other things in existence? To assert his freedom the individual sets out to destroy the object and show that it does not prevent the individual from acting freely. A pen is used without consideration for its freedom. Once this is achieved however, desire requires a new object, then another ad infinitum. So in this sense freedom is lost because the search for freedom the person has become dependant on an infinite supply of new objects. The independence that desire seeks is not to be found in external objects. External objects merely provide the individual with evidence that there are other things out there which are not like him and over which his will takes precedence.This causes a problem, for Hegel has already dismissed the idea that freedom and self certainty can be achieved simply by knowing that the individual exists, and yet he has now also dismissed the idea of self-certainty through interaction with external objects. Hegel has already stated that it is only through the recognition of other self-consciousnesses that self-certainty can be achieved. By this we can infer that there is something special about interaction with other self-consciousnesses that places the importance of this relationship above that of interaction with an object. In this context it is the existence of the self-consciousness in the other that is important. Hegel's master/slave relationship explains how this notion can lead to self-certainty. Recognition then must be an essential factor in the understanding of this dialectic.It is possible to interpret the master/slave dialectic in various ways. Although obviously an oversimplification I shall begin with Shklar's interpretation as this will enable a clearer understanding of the problem. I have already shown the problem of desire concerning objects and infinite regress. A person has to negate the object in order to guarantee self-certainty. When two self-conscious persons interact, desire dictates that both treat the other as an object and try to negate the other. This is referred to as the 'life and death struggle'. The life and death struggle is not meant literally anymore, it is more symbolic"In the imaginary situation before the event of society - even before the unity of family and tribes - dependency and independence had to turn on a single factor, and that factor is - life and death itself ". In this sense when two people met in these early times one had the power to kill the other the first was independent and the second dependant.In the modern sense each...

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