CBCA 1088 Desire and the Struggle for Recognition

One dominant trend in contemporary social science is to understand human beings as rational agents who make decisions based on cost-benefit analysis or a utilitarian calculus. But can such an account of human action account for the diversity of human desires and motivations? Through a careful reading of, and reflection over, a variety of philosophical and literary texts, as well as film, this course will examine the desire for the recognition of others as perhaps the fundamental human desire that shapes the dynamics of ethical, political, and interpersonal relationships. What ethical and political conflicts arise from the desire for recognition? How can we understand apparently irrational behavior as an expression of this fundamental drive, and can it help us better to understand various ethical and political conflicts? Lastly, how does this desire manifest itself in different historical and cultural circumstances? The western philosophical and literary tradition has sustained a constant reflection on the desire for recognition from a variety of viewpoints: as a cause of violent struggle, political revolution and even as manifesting itself in the dynamics of romantic love. In this course we will consider the nature and consequences of these various response to the desire for recognition in the hopes of enlarging our understanding of the diversity of human motives and fostering an open, anti-dogmatic, but critical attitude towards them.



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