Recognition and Justice

Charles Reagan


Paul Ricœur devoted much of his last ten years to studies and analyses of justice and recognition. This paper will trace the indelible bonds between justice and recognition and claim that recognition is a necessary condition for justice and that justice is the telos or goal of recognition. I begin this paper with a review of the multiple meanings of recognition in the two famous French dictionaries, the Littré (1859-1872) and the Le Grand Robert (1985). In his book, The Course of Recognition (2005), Ricoeur groups recognition under three headings, recognition as a form of knowledge or cognition (epistemological), self-recognition, and recognition of the other on the social and judicial level.

The complexities of the meanings of “to recognize” and “recognition” are important in their roles in the realm of justice. I include in the concept of justice, the judiciary, both civil and criminal; distributive justice; and, social and political justice. For each one of these, there are multiple meanings of recognition that are important to understanding their foundation and their scope. There are meanings of recognition that are relevant to other aspects of social justice as the recognition of marginal, oppressed, devalued, groups as deserving of being treated as equals. The structure of my paper is to go through the various meanings and categories of meanings of “to recognize” and “recognition.” I give an account of each of the types of justice and show how various kinds of recognition are relevant to each kind of justice.


Justice, Recognition,

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Copyright (c) 2016 Charles Reagan

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