Roots of Recognition - Cultural Identity and the Ethos of Hermeneutic Dialogue

Hans-Herbert Kögler


The point of this paper is to make social-philosophical insights regarding subjective identity-formation fruitful for a normative and empirically grounded conception of intercultural understanding. Recent critical social theory has shown individual identity to emerge from intersubjective processes of recognition. Personal identity thus becomes inseparable from cultural identity, which is always bound by concrete contexts. However, by reconstructing that the social sources of identity are essentially mediated by linguistic forms of self- understanding, we can argue for an ethos of hermeneutic dialogue that makes a situated transcendence of the contextual boundaries of understanding possible. Normatively, the linguistic mediation of identity allows us to reconstruct (a) the general respect for another speaker, (b) the hermeneutic sensitivity for another’s context, and (c) the reflexive analysis of structural component’s of the other’s objective context as value-orientations of intersubjective understanding. Empirically, this means that those attitudes including respect, context-sensitivity, and critical reflexivity can be seen as grounded in a universally available linguistic competence. The social roots of recognition that make identity possible thus reveal the potential for a hermeneutic dialogue that can challenge power-based and ethnocentric forms of cultural encounters.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; social studies; Wittgenstein Ludwig; cultural interpretation; hermeneutic ethic; hermeneutics; identity; intercultural dialogue; recognition theory

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