Normative Recursion: on Recursive Grounding and the Capacity for Radical Critique in Formal Pragmatics, Recognition, Social Freedom and Justification

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis explores the meta-ethical question: What properties would be required of a normative critical concept in order for it to be (a) derived from the social facticity of prevailing norms, practices and institutions in a given society and (b) still be capable of informing radical critique? This thesis takes radical critique to mean one that escapes all charges of status quo biases and thus truly transcends the immanent content of the norms, practices and institutions from which it was derived.

This thesis asserts that the necessary property of such a concept is recursion. That is, the property of a self-referentiality that allows for something to hierarchically contain copies of itself. The idea of finding the property of recursion in normative political theory and defending its utility is undertheorized in the political theory literature. By locating the property of recursion in the formal pragmatics of Jürgen Habermas, in Axel Honneth’s concepts of recognition and social freedom and in Rainer Forst’s concept of justification, this thesis remedies this situation. In doing so, a space is carved out for normative political theory between foundationalism and anti-foundationalism and between the utopian and realist approach.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


  • Formal Pragmatics, Recognition, Social Freedom, Justification, Recursion, Normative Validity Surplus, Critique, Reconstruction, Normative Foundations, Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, Rainer Forst
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2021 May 21
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-7895-839-9
Electronic ISBNs978-91-7895-840-5
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Apr 23
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2021-05-21 Time: 13:15 Place: Online, LU Zoom meeting: External reviewer(s) Name: Tönder, Lars Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Copenhagen ---

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