- Recognition: Examining Identity Struggles by Renante D. Pilapil
Recognition: Examining Identity Struggles
Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015. 194 pages.
One of the challenges of scholarship is bringing oneself into conversation with other disciplines. At a time when multiple perspectives are needed to understand complex phenomena, thinking beyond disciplinary boundaries and thematic concerns becomes crucial to our task of knowledge production. The work of scholars who mediate between disciplinal boundaries or the theoretical realm and empirical context is significant. Such labor takes various forms, which include philosophical analysis, particularly in the field of philosophical anthropology. In this area of philosophical inquiry, notions about the human person are based on empirical work. Renante D. Pilapil, a philosopher based at the Ateneo de Davao University, shows how philosophical anthropology can be deployed in the Philippine context and beyond through his work Recognition: Examining Identity Struggles. Based on his doctoral dissertation at KU Leuven, the book provides a critical introduction to the concept of recognition, a term that is readily invoked but rarely utilized as an analytical or constitutive framework in empirical social and cultural studies. Pilapil engages theorists of recognition, particularly Axel Honneth of the Frankfurt school of critical theory.
The book is concerned with the question of how we ought to think about identity claims in the present context, which is marked by a global resurgence of ethnoracial politics and nationalism. Pilapil reflects on how recognition serves as a normative framework to think about identity politics and social relations. Drawing on Honneth, Pilapil understands recognition as the act of not only perceiving but also, more specifically, affirming the preexisting traits, abilities, and moral autonomy of an individual or group. His work examines the normative theory of recognition and explains how its opposite, misrecognition (in the experience of disrespect, being unloved, and disesteemed, among others) dehumanizes persons (61). Moving beyond a philosophical scrutiny of the concept, the author points out how issues of recognition resonate in the Philippine experience through mundane examples presented in each chapter and a test case on the Moro struggles in Mindanao in the final chapter. Pilapil argues that, notwithstanding the problematic implications of the formal recognition of the identity and difference of individuals and minority groups (formal affirmative recognition), it is the [End Page 407] best means available for responding to identity claims of minority groups. In linking recognition to redistribution, Pilapil acknowledges the way cultural identity is bound up with socioeconomic conditions of people. In so doing, recognition becomes a matter of social justice and gains normative bite.
The arguments unfold in six chapters, beginning with a critique of Charles Taylor's assumption about the role of culture as a source of and basis for identity (chapter 1). As Taylor argues, recognition of peoples' cultural identities presupposes their equal worth. Pilapil then raises questions about equality and differential treatment arising from cultural distinction. Drawing from Will Kymlicka, he complicates the notion of cultural difference by pointing out how equal treatment may disadvantage minority groups. Acknowledging the possibility of the majority imposing itself on minority groups, Kymlicka proposes group-differentiated rights. The question of justifying rights on the basis of cultural identity claims is then tackled in the second chapter. Pilapil looks at Mark Tully's contestation approach as a counterpoint to formal affirmative recognition. In this formulation Tully assumes that demands for recognition have no resolution but are always in a state of struggle.
Pilapil argues that Honneth's elaboration of recognition provides a way out of the debate on what grounds it can be justified. In Honneth's theory, social recognition becomes a precondition for having an identity (chapter 3). Its lack or denial is detrimental to the processes of self-realization and personhood (75–79). Hence, Pilapil suggests that Honneth's theory highlights the moral basis for recognition. Honneth situates recognition within the intersubjective nature of human beings. Through particular relationships or spheres of interaction that overlap, humans form aspects of their personhood. In relations of love, which include family and friends, persons develop confidence; with peers they gain esteem; and in legal relations people acquire respect. According to Honneth, social or mutual affirmation...