In this paper I discuss the recent attempt of Axel Honneth of establishing a robust notion of progress through reference to recognitive structures. I claim that two strategies can be found in his writings for founding such a claim. On the one hand he tries to found the notion of progress on how differentiated the recognitive structures are. On the other hand he tries to found it on certain empirically revealed anthropological and psychological constants. I argue that both strategies fail. The differentiation-strategy is too open, the psychological strategy is too narrow. I discuss in what sense Honneth’s reflections on the importance of recognitive structures still may be of value in critical discussions. Even though it may be granted that a certain notion of progress is inevitable in critical discussions, it does not follow that it has to be a robust notion. I suggest that recognitive structures may serve as a universal reference point that can be used to locate disagreement (recognitive structures are always at play), rather than a robust universal starting point that can be used solve disagreement (it is not given that we agree upon which recognitive structures should be furthered).
Critical Horizons, 2009, Vol 10, Issue 1, p. 99-117