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Beyond Hegel and Nietzsche: Philosophy, Culture and Agency (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 40, Number 3, July 2002
pp. 408-409 | 10.1353/hph.2002.0063

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Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.3 (2002) 408-409

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Book Review

Beyond Hegel and Nietzsche:
Philosophy, Culture and Agency

Elliot L. Jurist. Beyond Hegel and Nietzsche: Philosophy, Culture and Agency. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. Pp. xii + 355. Cloth, $37.95.

Challenging the contemporary consensus that one must choose either Hegel or Nietzsche, Elliot Jurist joins the "rapprochement thesis" originated by Walter Kaufmann. He explores Hegel and Nietzsche on the themes of agency, intersubjectivity, and society and culture. Jurist approaches these themes through the psychology of knowledge. Nietzsche's psychological method is well known; Jurist believes Hegel's contributions to psychology are no less significant: Hegel's "superb insight," found in his concept of recognition, is that others co-constitute self-identity (285).

Jurist regards Hegel and Nietzsche as advancing important, somewhat divergent, but by no means incompatible, responses to the dissatisfactions and alienations of modern culture. Both criticize the subject-centered orientation of modern philosophy. Jurist concentrates on the Phenomenology of Spirit and presents a left-Hegelian anthropological reading indebted to Bataille and Kojeve. Jurist concedes that this Kojevean reading distorts Hegel's concept of recognition, but, as Descombes has pointed out, such an anthropological reading presents a "Hegel" that is more attractive to Nietzscheans. According to Jurist, Nietzsche's philosophy is a further development of Hegel's and this insight is the guide for his study (5).

This study raises several issues. First, Jurist focuses on the PhG for his account of recognition. He presents a valuable discussion of tragedy and recognition as tragic self-discovery. But the PhG is a self-accomplishing skepticism that shows that all Gestalten of consciousness are self-undermining. Hence it is not reciprocal recognition but the figure of master and slave that tends to dominate the PhG. Better places to look for reciprocal recognition and satisfied agency are Hegel's Encyclopedia Philosophy of Spirit and Philosophy of Right.

Second, as Judith Butler notes, Kojeve's reading of Hegel denies the possibility of reciprocal recognition. Kojeve believes that reciprocal recognition reflects a discredited ontological harmony. Kojeve takes master/slave as paradigmatic for recognition; it rests on ontological dualism and negation. Kojeve's view was developed by Sartre in Being and Nothingness: [End Page 408] the truth of intersubjectivity is conflict. Sartre and Kojeve appropriate Hegel only at the level of incomplete mediation and unequal recognition. Reciprocal recognition is ontological optimism. Jurist follows them.

Third, Jurist's classifications of recognition, e.g., true and false recognition (158) have no basis in Hegel. False recognition turns out to be synonymous with master and slave. What makes this false recognition is its one-sidedness that precludes satisfaction (159). But it is just this "false recognition" of master and slave that is the Kojevean paradigm Jurist favors. So paradoxically Jurist's "false recognition" turns out to be "true recognition" in Kojeve's sense.

What is true recognition? It is mutual recognition (168). According to Jurist the telos of recognition is not master/slave, but reciprocal recognition (181). Yet while "true mutual recognition" is there in Hegel's texts, Jurist doubts "true recognition" is actual in the world. He says that "there are good reasons to be suspicious about the seamless web of recognition, recognition of others and social reconciliation that Hegel offers"(12), and that Hegel's account shows "the absence of mutual recognition in the modern world" (169). Hegel's hope for reconciliation through mutual recognition "is no longer realistic in complex multicultural societies" (285). Part of the "problem" according to Jurist, is that mutual recognition is theological and "dependent on a Christian world view" (187). It is Hegel's putative reliance on Christian presuppositions that leads him to find the supreme realization of reciprocal recognition in forgiveness based on agapeic love (187). But since we are living in a post-Christian era, from this perspective, Hegel's account of mutual recognition is "corrupted by his grandiose and self-serving fantasy about the fulfillment of Geist in his own culture" (11). So if true recognition is mutual recognition, and...