Human Studies

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 567–589 | Cite as

Stein and Honneth on Empathy and Emotional Recognition

  • James Jardine
Theoretical / Philosophical Paper


My aim in this paper is to make use of Edith Stein’s phenomenological analyses of empathy, emotion, and personhood to clarify and critically assess the recent suggestion by Axel Honneth that a basic form of recognition is affective in nature. I will begin by considering Honneth’s own presentation of this claim in his discussion of the role of affect in recognitive gestures, as well as in his notion of ‘elementary recognition,’ arguing that while his account contains much of value it also generates problems. On the basis of this analysis, I will try to show that Stein’s account of empathy demarcates an elementary form of recognition in a less problematic fashion than does Honneth’s own treatment of this issue. I will then spell out the consequences of this move for the emotional recognition thesis, arguing that Stein’s treatment lends it further credence, before ending with some remarks on the connection between recognition and emotional personality.


Edith Stein Axel Honneth Empathy Recognition Emotion Personhood 



I am grateful to Thomas Fuchs, Felipe León, Alba Montes Sanchez, Thomas Szanto, Joona Taipale, Dan Zahavi, and two anonymous reviewers, for their perceptive and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


The research undertaken for this article was funded by the VELUX Foundation, as part of the research project ‘Empathy and Interpersonal Understanding’. More information about the project can be found here:

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author states that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Subjectivity ResearchUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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