Metaphysical guilt: Jaspers, Honneth, and the problem of dehumanisation


  • Ewa Latecka University of Zululand, South Africa



Metaphysical guilt, Recognition, Dehumanisation, Axel Honneth, Karl Jaspers


This paper addresses the conditions that need to be met for a human being to feel or, conversely, not to feel guilty of a wrongdoing against another human being. It does this in the light of Jaspers’ understanding of metaphysical guilt as arising from inter-human solidarity. My claim is twofold. First, I claim that, while metaphysical guilt is not impossible, Jaspers does not offer an explanation of how it arises either in the Question of German Guilt (Jaspers 2000) or in his other work on guilt in general Secondly, despite metaphysical guilt’s existence, it is, nevertheless, common for humans not to experience it, a phenomenon which Jaspers implicitly acknowledges but does not explain explicitly. I apply Axel Honneth’s concept of recognition in order to supply the social component and the theory of dehumanisation to explain why, under some circumstances, metaphysical guilt does not arise.


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