Heikki A. Kovalainen

 kovalainen-h Heikki A. Kovalainen, Post-doctoral researcher
Acknowledgement vs. Recognition: Seeing Each Other’s Humanity in Contemporary Moral Philosophy

My research examines the philosophical concept of interpersonal recognition vis-à-vis contemporary moral philosophy, on the one hand, and the notion of acknowledgement such as understood by the influential American philosopher Stanley Cavell, on the other. The work contributes to the thematics of recognition in two ways.

First, I trace the implications of the concept of recognition or acknowledgement for contemporary moral philosophy. It is often presumed that acting responsively toward another human being presupposes interpersonal recognition: seeing humanity in the other. In line with so-called Wittgensteinian moral philosophers (e.g. Raimond Gaita), however, it can be argued that acting in a neighborly vein need not be a consequence of recognition; rather, to act responsively toward the other always already means to recognize her humanity, and conversely, recognizing another’s humanity is to respond to her needs attentively.

Second, I work on a systematic interpretation of Stanley Cavell’s concept of acknowledgment and its theological bearings. In contemporary discussions on recognition, acknowledgement tends to be seen as a superficial form of recognition, semantically associated with what Arto Laitinen tags “adequate regard”. For Cavell, in contrast, acknowledgement is a fundamental act that is required for us to have proper relations not only to one another but also to God. In particular, Cavell aligns his interpretation of acknowledgement with Luther’s concept of faith—contrasted with knowledge. God is not something we might know; rather, our relation to God (as to the world) is something more intimate and less epistemic.