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Volume 1, 2011

Re-thinking Ethics Today

Josef Simon
Pages 223-232

Anerkennung als eco-ethischer Begriff

The overpopulation of the earth and the increasing consumption of its life ressources implies new risks and damages for mankind. The awareness of this facts has turned Ethics, formerly conceived of primarily as one among other philosophical disciplines, into a fundamental one. Ethics has become, in some sense, a “first philosophy”. This has opened new object fields for it. In the past Ethics was mainly concerned with the “good” life and the “good” behavior of the single subject. Now it aims to support behavior kinds making possible the survival of mankind under globalized life conditions. “Good” life presupposes surviving. Ethical reflections aimed formerly to guarantee that human beings keep able to live together even if they don’t share the same “values”. Now they have to face the problem of the living together of human beings belonging to different cultures and social forms. The main question is no more what ethical fundamentals would best enable human beings to live together, but what are the conditions for a coexistence of values which enables a good living together of human beings with diverse ethical orientations. Often it is said that Hegel did not develop an Ethics of his own. This paper would like to show that Hegel’s philosophy is, on the contrary, an excellent tool for facing such kinds of questions. His main ethical concept is “recognition”. But he is not concerned with the recognition or rejection of concrete ethical principles. His concept of recognition focuses on the individual in its absolute singularity, in his being absolutely unique in and through himself. His consciousness as self-consciousness gets thus particular in the sense of being definitely individual. Hegel calls the reciprocal recognition of individually conscious subjects the “absolute spirit”. This unusual terminology has made an adequate reception of Hegel’s thinking quite difficult. But there can be no doubt that his very rich and deep elaboration of the phenomenology of such recognition among factual subjects provides extremely productive tools to face eco-ethical reflections in our days. This paper tries to show in presently understandable terms Hegel’s reflections on the very nature of language as the place in which the subjects experience both their absolute individuality and their community, i. e. their singularity and the generality of their institutions, in a simultaneously paradox and coherent way. Recognition becomes in Hegel the inner structure of pardon and reconciliation. Its dependence on languages both diverse and shared makes this concept particularly productive for shaping the living together of human beings belonging to diverse cultures and following diverse ethical orientations.

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