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Special Section: The Politics of Social Suffering

Grounding social criticism: from understanding to suffering and back


Onni Hirvonen

University of Jyväskylä, FI
About Onni

Profesor titular de filosofía en el Departamento de Ciencias Sociales y Filosofía de la Universidad de Jyväskylä. Sus principales intereses incluyen la filosofía Hegeliana del reconocimiento y la ontología social. Las publicaciones recientes de Hirvonen incluyen Populism as a Pathological Form of Politics of Recognition (El populismo como forma patológica de la política del reconocimiento), con Joonas Pennanen, y Groups as Persons? A Suggestion for a Hegelian Turn (¿Grupos como personas? Una sugerencia para un giro Hegeliano).

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This paper critically examines John Dewey’s and Axel Honneth’s critical social philosophies in order to highlight two different normative sources of social struggle: scientific understanding and social suffering. The paper discusses the relations of these sources with each other and aims to show to what extent the normative sources of Dewey’s and Honneth’s critical social theories are compatible. The comparison between Dewey and Honneth is used in order to argue for a desiderata for critical social ontology. The argument is that we want to consistently include both elements – suffering and understanding – in a critical theory as only by having both will critical theory grant a clear enough direction and good enough motivational normative core for a social struggle.
How to Cite: Hirvonen, O., 2019. Grounding social criticism: from understanding to suffering and back. Digithum, (23). DOI:
Published on 11 Apr 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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