Recognition, We-Intentionality and Second-Person Engagement

Keynote Speakers 

Andrea Kern (University of Leipzig)
Arto Laitinen (Tampere University)
Patricia Meindl (University of Copenhagen)
Danielle Petherbridge (University College Dublin)
Dan Zahavi (University of Copenhagen & University of Oxford)

Workshop description

The concept of recognition has proven highly influential and fertile when engaging with fundamental questions in social and political philosophy. In the contemporary discussion, it is not only suggested that recognition from others is important for the emergence and consolidation of personal identity, but that it also plays a fundamental role for the very constitution of social and institutional reality. At the same time, led under the label of collective- or we-intentionality, a vast amount of literature has been dedicated to shed light on the formation and structure of communities, groups and other social phenomena. Recent developments in this field have paid particular attention to the dynamics of second-personal engagements in illuminating the conditions under which we-intentionality and a sense of ‘us’ emerge.

Although research on recognition and we-intentionality thematises the foundations of human sociality, these two research domains have developed in relative isolation from each other. This workshop aims to bring the discourse on recognition on the one hand, and recent developments within the collective intentionality debate on the other into a fruitful dialogue by raising questions such as the following: To what extent does the we-perspective involve or presuppose recognition? What kind of recognition could be at play in the formation of groups and other collectives? Do second-personal engagements constitute relations of recognition? How, if at all, does second-person engagement relate to normatively rich notions of recognition involving respect, esteem, trust and care (be it in relation to other individuals or other groups, such as minorities)?



Thursday April 4, 2019





Andrea Kern
We are you and me


Coffee Break


Patricia Meindl
Second-Personal Engagement and Acknowledgment: Buber and Levinas


Arto Laitinen
To revere, to copy-edit, to co-author, to legislate: varieties of causal, constitutive and normative relations 


Friday April 5, 2019



Danielle Petherbridge
Between Honneth and Husserl: Recognition, Second-Person Engagement and the We 


Coffee Break


Dan Zahavi
The We and the Crowd:
Collective Emotions and Emotional Contagion




Andrea Kern (University of Leipzig)

We are you and me

According to a widespread idea what makes human life distinct is due to the fact that humans possess a capacity for learning that is not possessed by any other animal. Several candidates have been suggested to characterize the distinctiveness of this capacity: Human learning is said to have a general content rather than something particular, to be imitative rather than emulative, to be self-correcting rather than mechanical. I will argue that none of these characteristics are intelligible unless one situates them in the context of an idea of the human as a self-conscious form of life. Learning, I will argue, is a fundamental activity of self-consciousness that explains the possibility of a self that is both, an I that that is different from You as well as an I that is identical with you. An I that conceives of itself, in one and the same consciousness, to be different from you and identical with you, is an I that has the form of a We. The consciousness of learning is thus a form of we-consciousness that entails an I-you-consciousness and vice versa. It is the most fundamental form of we-consciousness because it explains the very possibility of that which any we-consciousness unites, that is, you and me.

Arto Laitinen (Tampere University)

To revere, to copy-edit, to co-author, to legislate: varieties of causal, constitutive and normative relations

Think about four cases: Jon can revere Joanna; edit a text of hers (for an edited collection), co-author a text with her, or they both can become Members of European Parliament and legislate something, say, about intellectual property rights concerning co-authored texts. With the help of these cases, this talk will highlight the ways in which (i) there can be adequate recognition (e.g. from respectful distance) without actually engaging with the other; how (ii) engaging with the other ought to be respectful and adequate recognitionwise (although it not always is, and yet is genuine interaction), but need not lead to a formation of a shared “we”, or “our” center of commitments or a group, as indeed it doesn’t in the case when two people work on a text that is however only the other’s text (the other contributes as an editor); and (iii) how – after the emergence of “we” as a center of commitments, (after a decision to co-author an article) – the process can be relatively independent of actual interaction (say, two people may co-author a paper based on a shared initial conversation, but the other does all the writing), and different varieties of misrecognition can again be at stake, and how (iv) institutional forms of group action presuppose institutional roles or statuses, and the rights, tasks and role-obligations that come with them. And again, institutional action can be relatively independent of forming “we”-attitudes or interacting: think of two members of Parliament on opposing sides – they both take part in “legislating” something even when one votes for and the other against. Thus the four notions (recognition, interaction, acting as a group, and institutional action) can come apart in different ways. Having pointed this out, this talk asks what sort of constitutive, normative and dynamic (causal-formative) relations there may be between these four.



Patricia Meindl (University of Copenhagen)

Second-personal Engagement and Acknowledgment: Buber and Levinas

It is commonly agreed that relating to another as a ‘you’ differs fundamentally from a third-personal perspective, yet there is little consensus about what is distinctive of second-personal engagements. Recent suggestions range from an emphasis on the reciprocal and communicative dimension of the relation (e.g. Zahavi 2016) to a certain form of openness towards the other, involving emotional responsiveness (Reddy 2018). In this talk I argue that neither of these accounts fully captures the phenomenon of relating to another as a you, because they fail to reflect on the normative dimensions underpinning a second-personal address. Encountering another as a ‘you’, I argue, entails a fundamental form of acknowledgment of the other person, which is absent in third-personal relations. This feature comes into view, I maintain, if we take into account theoretical resources which have received little attention in the contemporary discussion: Martin Buber’s mature exposition of the I-Thou relation on the one hand, and Emmanuel Levinas’ account of the face-to-face relation on the other. Despite the fact that Buber and Levinas defend diverging accounts of the nature of the intersubjective encounter, I argue that both of them consider the acknowledgment of the other’s particularity a crucial aspect of relating to the other as a ‘you’. Including this feature in one’s conception of second-personal engagements proves particularly beneficial, I claim, in determining the unresolved question to which extent, if at all, second-personal engagements allow for antagonistic interactions. I conclude by outlining the ramifications of this view for theories which consider second-personal engagements to be necessary for the formation of a We.

Danielle Petherbridge (Philosophy, University College Dublin)

Between Honneth and Husserl: Recognition, Second-Person Engagement and the We

In this paper, I examine Honneth’s account of second-person engagement and discuss the ways in which patterns of recognitive interaction are both constitutive of and constituted by the ‘we-perspective’. In Honneth’s terms the ‘we-perspective’ could be termed living, shared relationships of recognition that can only be understood in terms of three interlocking elements that include not only I-You or face-to-face interaction but also a specific concept of subject-formation and the normative framework in which both are embedded. I next outline the ways in which a contrast between Honneth’s and Husserl’s accounts of I-You relations is instructive for a more comprehensive account of second-person engagement and indicate the points at which the two accounts might intersect. I conclude by considering the ways in which their respective accounts of I-You relations shape their respective notions of the ‘we-perspective’ or ‘we-intentionality’ based on shared experience, goals, or recognition claims.



There is a limited number of places available. If you would like to participate in the workshop, please send an e-mail including a brief statement of interest to by March 25, 2019.