Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Rose, Philip


Cultural Unity, Metaphysics, Recognition, Stability




In this paper, I will argue that Axel Honneth’s formulation of the theory of recognition can add something valuable to Bruno Latour’s metaphysics of heterogeneous modes of existence in that it provides an account of what motivates individuals to continually participate in established patterns of interaction thereby encouraging the stability of the collective. I claim that heterogeneous modes of existence, or patterns of interaction are, in a sense, unified in the individual in that not only do they, at least in part, constitute reality for generations that are socialized into them, but participation in these instituted behaviours is also what constitutes an individual’s sense of self. I will argue that the co-constitution of society and sense of self that results from patterns of recognition can provide the explanation of stability, in terms of the perpetuation of instituted practices, and unity, in terms of the sense that those practices form a meaningful, unified whole, that is missing from Latour’s account. It is my claim that this can be done in a way that is compatible with Latour’s overall metaphysics. Given that part of the project in An Inquiry into Modes of Existence involves accounting for the actual experience of moderns while simultaneously tracing the disconnect with theory, it is important for the experience of stability and unity as described above to be located within his metaphysics. I will begin with some background on Latour’s project so as to understand the issues with modern theory that he seeks to address as well as the solution offered by the modes of existence before going on to frame what is missing from this account. I will then consider the sense of self that arises out of processes of recognition based on Axel Honneth’s account. I will then make a case for the usefulness of master narratives if they are understood in terms of symbolic universes as explained by Berger and Luckmann or symbol systems as explained by Clifford Geertz and will consider their role in processes of recognition. Finally, I will explain how the process of the co-constitution of self and society and the mechanism of recognition are consistent with Latour’s overall project.