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Hegel's Antigone: Desire, Recognition, and the Irreplaceability of the Brother
Unformatted Document Text:  increasing prominence of this achievement principle by making recognition central to social life, as appropriate to the emerging market economy. For Hegel, the ideal form of exchange between rational, self-determining self- conscious agents is reciprocal recognition. However, as H.S. Harris writes, “a judgment of equality can only be rendered in the struggle, through the death of both parties …” 7 Harris writes that Hegel had in mind here Polyneices and Eteocles, who kill eachother in a battle for sovereignty. Neither of them surmounts the other, and neither of them survives. If both parties survive the confrontation, the relation becomes that of master and slave, where one party recognizes, and submits to, the authority of the other. Axel Honneth writes that, beginning with the System of Ethical Life (1802), Hegel sought to accommodate Hobbes’ insight that the public sphere is an arena of “hostile competition,” and that Hegel tried to do so by means of a theory of social cohesion in which individuals affirm their freedom through ethical bonds forged in conflict. 8 The reason that these ethical bonds are forged through conflict is inherent in the idea of unequal recognition that Hegel presents in the Phenomenology. It is this public sphere of “hostile competition” and conflict that Hegel thought that women would shy away from. Women, he writes, have an interest “centred on the universal and remain alien to the particularity of desire” (PG300/PS275), where the desire in question is the desire for dominance. 9 He thought that women lacked this desire so that they would not struggle for dominance with other self-conscious agents in a community of mutual recognition. 7 Harris, H.S. Hegel’s Ladder I: The Pilgrimage of Reason. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997. p. 351. 8 Honneth, Axel. The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995. 9 Russon, John. Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004. 3

Authors: Burke, Victoria.
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increasing prominence of this achievement principle by making recognition central to
social life, as appropriate to the emerging market economy.
For Hegel, the ideal form of exchange between rational, self-determining self-
conscious agents is reciprocal recognition. However, as H.S. Harris writes, “a judgment
of equality can only be rendered in the struggle, through the death of both parties …”
Harris writes that Hegel had in mind here Polyneices and Eteocles, who kill eachother in
a battle for sovereignty. Neither of them surmounts the other, and neither of them
survives. If both parties survive the confrontation, the relation becomes that of master and
slave, where one party recognizes, and submits to, the authority of the other.
Axel Honneth writes that, beginning with the System of Ethical Life (1802), Hegel
sought to accommodate Hobbes’ insight that the public sphere is an arena of “hostile
competition,” and that Hegel tried to do so by means of a theory of social cohesion in
which individuals affirm their freedom through ethical bonds forged in conflict.
The
reason that these ethical bonds are forged through conflict is inherent in the idea of
unequal recognition that Hegel presents in the Phenomenology. It is this public sphere of
“hostile competition” and conflict that Hegel thought that women would shy away from.
Women, he writes, have an interest “centred on the universal and remain alien to the
particularity of desire” (PG300/PS275), where the desire in question is the desire for
dominance.
He thought that women lacked this desire so that they would not struggle for
dominance with other self-conscious agents in a community of mutual recognition.
7
Harris, H.S. Hegel’s Ladder I: The Pilgrimage of Reason. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing
Company, 1997. p. 351.
8
Honneth, Axel.
The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995.
9
Russon, John. Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,
2004.
3


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