Between Anthropology and Communication: Towards a General Theory of Recognition
International Journal of Humanities and Social Science
By defining recognition as a «vital human need», somehow Charles Taylor opened the way to a possible reexpression of the theme of recognition within a general theory having an anthropological-philosophical base. The fact that a similar root can even be found in other fundamental subsequent researches, such as in Habermas, Ricoeur and Honneth, which does not only reinforce this interpretative line, but rather it tends towards an interdisciplinary articulation. This is because in constructing
... in constructing their respective theories, these scholars give a varied or even different reference to disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and politics. Actually, the concept of recognition has been variously developed by these disciplines, for different reasons and in relation to different domains of application. But, the conceptual and theoretical camp is fragmented, heterogeneous, and even contradictory. This paper aims to investigate whether philosophy may be used at a theoretical level to nourish this important concept within sight of a new general theory which subsumes the contribution of psychology, sociology, and politics. (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) ©Center for Promoting Ideas, USA www.ijhssnet.com 26 However, as Ricoeur underlines, the current state of using recognition is unclear and paradoxical: not only «it is a fact that no theory of recognition worthy of the name exists in the way that one or more theories of knowledge exist» (Ricoeur, 2005, p. IX); but without a rule-governed polysemy referring to speculative uses of recognition a coherent philosophical discourse cannot be realised. For Ricoeur, to study, clarify and articulate such a polysemy is the first commitment for philosophy; and philosophy, here, has to begin from a non-philosophical level of research, describing and subsuming a first level of reflective theorisation from the polysemy of recognition in ordinary language, knowledge and use(s). This ability of philosophy to work while moving from a non-speculative to a speculative level is the first aspect that qualifies it as a privileged discipline to be used in the development of a general theory of recognition that must subsume the specific uses of recognition in psychology, sociology and politics, and at the same time clearly mirror it, grounding it to an anthropological-speculative sufficiently flexible conception, i.e. not too speculative, culturally and ideologically "angled", and not too vague. This latter task which is justified and explained by the previously mentioned constitutive reference of theorists of recognition to anthropology requires another additional functionality that philosophy possesses. Philosophy"s conceptual flexibility and variety of methods and styles are due to its vast and diverse history; it is a composite with a general, methodological/procedural interest that may (1) be separated from its specific, doctrinal/traditional references and connectedness and (2) be freely used or applied in different domains and contexts. Among others, a critical-hermeneutical approach articulated between explanation and understanding seems able to perform coherently a similar "function" in a great range of areas (a) summarising the general-formal aspects of the anthropologies involved and (b) evaluating the concrete possibility of a comprehensive use of a generalised theory of recognition. Paul Ricoeur"s methodology offers a useful example of a critical hermeneutics that can easily be extracted and cut off from specific ideological-speculative bounds (see Busacchi, 2015) . Ricoeur"s disposition to co-philosophise, his interdisciplinary attitude and the varied character of his speculative approach (moving from spiritualism to phenomenology and reflexive philosophy, from hermeneutics to linguistics and analytic philosophy, etc.) clearly reveals a strategy for a comprehensive approach able to overcome radical disciplinary limitations. Among the generalisable elements of Ricoeur"s speculative style and philosophy is the idea of a reflective movement from the non-philosophical level to the philosophical one, or from the nonspeculative to the speculative, in which the first level or moment indicates the cultural sphere (myths, symbols, poetic or narrative language, traditions, common sense, etc.), the social sphere (practical/moral/political social engagement and similar) and the scientific sphere, i.e. the sphere of the different sciences. Similarly, Habermas approaches the main epistemological interests (technical, practical and emancipatory interests), which are the basis of different disciplines, from a critical-general perspective aimed at a non-scientific (yet not defeatist) approach to each discipline, so to keep them in a broader, and not perspective angled, spectrum of rationality. It is the specific passage through Ricoeur, Honneth and Habermas" sociology of recognition that particularly demonstrates the centrality of an anthropological view, as well as the simultaneous and equal role played by a critical sociology of communication for a general perspective on recognition with theoretical bases. However, first, coherently following the methodological movement from non-speculative to speculative, discussion of the speculative element will be preceded by an essential analysis of the specific, disciplinary uses of recognition in psychology, sociology and politics respectively. Recognition in psychology, sociology and politics The concept of recognition is used extensively, both theoretically and clinically, in psychology and psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychopathology and psychotherapy. In cognitive psychology, the notion has a central function in research and therapies related to memory, cognition and intelligence. A "recognition test" connects these three level of mental life to measure and evaluate the degree of intelligence and the ability to perceive, remember, identify, associate and so on. It is even used in psychiatry as an instrument for specific cases (for the diagnosis of dementia, for example). For many, the mind operates as a system or a "black box" that re-elaborates external data and re-organises it (see Friedenberg Silverman, 2006) . This is human information processing. Directly or indirectly connected with this area, or even with other disciplinary domains for example, psychiatry there are several important key terms in current use, such as face recognition, word-recognition, recall (which is a notion of use and meaning in comparison with recognition), and pattern recognition.