Macquarie University
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Concepts of Group Recognition

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posted on 2022-12-15, 02:12 authored by Onni Hirvonen

While the Hegelian concept of recognition now plays a central role in political philosophy, the concept of group recognition, as distinct from recognition of an individual person’s identity, has gone underanalysed. This thesis takes three key concepts – recognition, groups, and personhood – to construct a more complete view of what is at stake when we talk about group recognition. The thesis begins by introducing the key intuitions in the Hegelian concept of recognition and highlights the problem that if recognition is understood as an interpersonal relationship, then genuine group recognition in the Hegelian sense would require personification of groups. After the problem is introduced, the first major section of the thesis takes the concept of a group and tries, through a reconstruction of Philip Pettit’s argument for group agency, to come up with conceptual tools for determining which, if any, groups can be recognized in the Hegelian sense. The second main part of the thesis uses these group ontological tools to evaluate two main existing theories of recognition – those of Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth. It is argued that while Taylor accepts group level recognition, his use of the concept in the context of cultural struggles leads to problems. Honneth, unlike Taylor, does not see groups as agents in recognition. However, this too becomes problematic when he tries to explain collective struggles for recognition. In the third part, the conceptual possibilities of group recognition are mapped out by taking a closer look at Pettit’s, Taylor’s, and Honneth’s ideas of personhood. A case is made for a multi-dimensional theory of personhood that, when combined with analytical social ontology, offers a conceptual framework for understanding group recognition that advances on the conception found in existing recognition theories and theories of group persons taken on their own.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. On the Concept of Group -- 2. Recognition Theories and Group Ontology -- 3. The Conceptual Possibilities of Group Recognition -- Conclusions -- References

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Nicholas Smith

Additional Supervisor 1

Jean-Philippe Deranty


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




217 pages