Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 137–152 | Cite as

Discourse and Recognition as Normative Grounds for Radical Pedagogy: Habermasian and Honnethian Ethics in the Context of Education



The idea of radical pedagogy is connected to the ideals of social justice and democracy and also to the ethical demands of love, care and human flourishing, an emotional context that is sometimes forgotten in discussions of power and inequality. Both this emotional context and also the emphasis on politics can be found in the writings of Paolo Freire, someone who has provided much inspiration for radical pedagogy over the years. However, Freire did not create any explicit ethical foundation for radical pedagogy. This paper argues that, when constructing normative grounds for radical pedagogy, Habermas’s discourse ethics can be an important source, with the caveat that discourse ethics on its own is not sufficient grounding enough where radical pedagogy is concerned. Habermasian critical theory should be supplemented with Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition, as Freire’s focus on love and human flourishing corresponds well with Honneth’s theory’s three modes of recognition: love, rights and respect (solidarity stemming from mutual relations of respect).


Habermas Honneth Disource ethics Recognition Radical pedagogy 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland
  2. 2.King’s Learning Institute, King’s College LondonLondonUK

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