Hegel, Recognition, and Same-Sex Marriage

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2015


John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


To understand Hegel's concepts of love, marriage, and Sittlichkeit, which are closely related, we must begin to understand his very important theory of recognition. This will be the task of Section II of this article. In pursuing this task, we must be careful to avoid the mistake, made by some commentators, of thinking that mutual recognition between equals is sufficient either for marriage or for Sittlichkeit. For Hegel, I hope to show, the more significant and powerful the recognizer, the more real the recognized—such that, ultimately, recognition must come from spirit (Geist). Then, to better understand Hegel's theory of recognition, it will be helpful, in Section III, to look at some contemporary arguments for same-sex marriage. Very few Hegel scholars would think Hegel's thought compatible with same-sex marriage, and most of those who do base their argument on Hegel's concept of freedom.1 I will make an argument based on Hegel's concept of recognition. This will not only provide a different argument for same-sex marriage, but one, I hope to show, that can capture especially well some of the central concerns of contemporary proponents and help provide them a philosophical underpinning.2