Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Theme of Institutional Pathologies at Witten/Herdecke

The Fourth Witten Conference on Institutional Change was organized at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany during 1–2 February 2018. I got an invitation to contribute on contemporary recognition theory from Professor Matthias Kettner, who was also mainly responsible for organizing the event. From a recognition-theoretical perspective, the theme of institutional pathologies is indeed highly relevant, and the discussions during the conference were very interesting, useful, and intellectually stimulating. They also fit perfectly with the idea of recognition theory as “an interdisciplinary social theory with emancipatory intent” as Christopher F. Zurn has put it in his 2015 book on Honneth.

Professor Matthias Kettner

The turn of the month was thus a very busy and highly rewarding experience. Before the main program started, there was a pre-conference get-together at the restaurant Ratskeller on the 31st of January. This was already a great opportunity to meet and talk with many of the participants. Next morning, the conference kicked off with a plenary panel “On the Very Idea of a Socio-Cultural Pathology” chaired by Professor Dirk Sauerland. Matthias Kettner and Kerrin Jacobs opened the session with their talks, after which Nadia von Jacobi, Rasmus Johnsen and myself joined the panel with our own comments and discussion. After the panel and a coffee break, I got to chair one of the parallel sessions. Its topic was “Disorders of Moral Responsibility and Awareness”, and the contributors were Uta Müller, Mica Valdivia, and Jacob Dahl Rendtorff. These speakers gave considered talks on the complex issues of institutional responsibility and moral blindness. In the evening, I presented my invited lecture on “Social Recognition and Institutional Pathologies: The Case of Religious Identities”, and continued with questions and comments. To conclude the day, the participants then gathered for the conference dinner at Restaurant Mondo.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to concentrate on listening to talks by others and participating in discussions. The day was opened by Hartmut Rosa’s invited lecture “Pathological Potentials of Dynamic Societal Stabilization”. The programme continued with parallel sessions, and I attended a round table session on “Institutional Transfers and Social Pathologies”. The discussion by Joachim Zweynert (Chair), Elsje Fourie, Robbert Maseland, and Valentin Seidler resonated strongly with the Honnethian theme of a formal conception of the good life, which tries to abstract from any substantive cultural values. During the lunch break, a meeting chaired by Professor Kettner was held on forming a research network of interested people around the themes of the conference. The third invited lecture of the conference was then given by Rasmus Johnsen, whose topic was “Chronopathic Feelings: Time Pressure and the Pathologies of Contemporary Work-Life”. After the talk, Kettner and Sauerland presented a recapitulation and farewell for the conference.

Registration at the conference
On Saturday, I then proceeded to give an intensive four-hour seminar on contemporary recognition theory. In addition to Professors Kettner and Dirk Tänzler, the audience consisted mainly of students of Witten/Herdecke University’s Master Programme on Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). It was truly a pleasure to lecture on my favourite topic, and to have such enlightening discussions with both faculty and students. On Sunday, it was time to return home with fond memories of the conference as well as of all the persons encountered in Witten.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

New York & Boston 2017

During 15-23 November, a group of CoE researchers led by Sami Pihlström and reinforced by Sari Kivistö traveled together to the East Coast of the United States. In addition to Pihlström and Kivistö, our group of five also included Maijastina Kahlos, Ritva Palmén, and myself. The US tour included talks at Columbia and Fordham Universities in New York as well as a session in the AAR Annual Meeting in Boston.

Our first set of talks was given at Columbia University's Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life. In this event, we were joined by Panu-Matti Pöykkö, who is currently completing his doctoral studies at Harvard. Wayne Proudfoot was our kind and discerning host at Columbia, and he made us all feel very welcome indeed.

The second talk of the tour was by Sami Pihlström at the New York Pragmatist Forum. This meeting's overall topic was pragmatist philosophy of religion. After Pihlström, Angela Sager gave her presentation. The Fordham event then continued with comments between the speakers and concluded with a general discussion.

As in Columbia, the evening ended with an excellent dinner and interesting discussions. Personally, I was very happy to be able to talk about contemporary recognition theory with Judith Green who is a founding member of the NYPF.

After our gigs in New York, we took the train to Boston, and continued with a session at the AAR Annual Meeting. Two years ago in 2015, we had our first CoE session at the AAR in Atlanta. This time, we had more audience, and the discussions were also more extensive. The program of our Extended Wildcard Session can be found here.

The AAR meeting was a good opportunity not only to talk about recognition in the US, but also to meet old acquaintances and to make new ones. Among other contacts, I got to meet and talk with Editors of Oxford University Press and De Gruyter. The latter's Katarzyna Tempczyk brought with her a very nice set of flyers that had been made of the Topical Issue on Religious Recognition that I edited together with Ritva Palmén and Risto Saarinen last year.

I spent a very good morning coffee session in Boston with Christopher F. Zurn who is one of the central names in contemporary recognition theory. I invited him earlier to the Recognition: Its Theory and Practice Conference that will be organized by our Coe at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in June 2018. It was good to meet him personally on the US side of the Atlantic before the upcoming conference in Finland. We had an intensive discussion on matters related with contemporary recognition theory, and I continued my day feeling inspired, having also gotten some very useful ideas for my future work from our discussions.

While visiting Harvard, our group got to a couple of very nice bookstores. As one might expect, I brought back home some reading souvenirs by local Harvard authors.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Gregynog Conference 2016

This spring, I received an invitation to give a plenary talk on recognition in Gregynog (Wales, UK) during 25-27 July. The Gregynog Conference was hosted by the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, with Paul Standish and Naomi Hodgson as the organizers of the event.

Paul Standish

Naomi Hodgson

The conference was set in beautiful surroundings, offering a variety of highly interesting talks. In my own presentation titled "Antecedent Recognition: Some Problematic Features of the Very Notion" I dealt with Axel Honneth's specific views, and got some very good questions and comments from the audience afterwards.

Time for a break

In general, the overall athmosphere of the conference was truly enjoyable. One of the personal highpoints was experienced during "the late seminar" which consisted of singing together around a grand piano. I will certainly try to go again!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Reflections on Recognition

During 26-28 May 2016, our CoE organized a conference with the title Reflections on Recognition at the University of Helsinki. The concept was built around an international scholarly book project that is presently being edited by Maijastina Kahlos (from CoE Team 1), Ritva Palmén (from CoE Team 2), and myself (from CoE Team 3). Below are some photos from the event.

Simon Thompson

Ritva Palmén with audience including the CoE's Scientific Advisory Board

Maijastina Kahlos

A visit to the National Library

Viewing Medieval manuscripts


Andrea Aldo Robiglio

Hartmut Leppin

Paul Redding

Risto Saarinen and the cover of his book forthcoming from Oxford UP

Virpi Mäkinen

Ismo Dunderberg

On the way to Suomenlinna and Walhalla

Anna-Liisa Tolonen with Ritva Palmén and Maijastina Kahlos

Heikki Ikäheimo, Arto Laitinen & Simon Thompson

More photographs and the programme of the event can be found under this link to the CoE blog.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Collaboration on Love & Justice

On Friday 22 April 2016, our CoE collaborated with the CoPassion project and the Social Ethics Forum in organizing a one-day seminar on the themes of love and justice, which are also highly relevant research topics from a recognition-theoretical perspective.

Anna Salonen, Anne-Birgitta Pessi and Risto Saarinen
participated in a panel discussion

Heikki Haara, Joona Salminen, Tii Syrjänen, Anna Seppänen, and Taina Kalliokoski
- the organizers of the event

Anna-Liisa Tolonen and Marjaana Toiviainen engaged in group work

Love in action

After the opening panel discussion, we heard various presentations by Jaana Hallamaa, Anne Birgitta Pessi & Henrietta Grönlund, myself, Risto Saarinen, Pauli Kettunen, and Ville Päivänsalo.

Henrietta Grönlund

Between the presentations, the participants worked in groups, discussing themes related to the overall topics of the event and the talks of the individual speakers.

Jaana Hallamaa

Pauli Kettunen

Ville Päivänsalo

On the whole, the day was both interesting and inspiring in various ways. It was also nice to see that so many of our CoE members contributed to the event in the roles of organizers, speakers, and participants.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Recognition Retreat II

Our Centre of Excellence held its second Recognition Retreat at Hvittorp in Kirkkonummi during 7-8 April 2016. The official programme started with lunch on Thursday and concluded with another one on Friday.

A group photo of the participants

The programme included four sessions, three of which took place on Thursday and one on Friday morning. During the first session, Jari Kaukua's and Hanne Appelqvist's successful project applications were duly recognized. After this, the CoE members reported on some interesting conference activities that they had participated in during the last year or so.

Hvittorp's course facilities

In the second session, Risto Saarinen presented information on the Academy of Finland procedures and practicalities of the second half of the CoE during 2017-2019. There was also an opportunity to discuss various related issues and raise questions that came to mind.

The third and final session of Thursday began with Antti Ruotsala's presentation of his studies of Mongol and other Asian cultures. After the talk, we heard musical presentations by Panu-Matti Pöykkö on the guitar, and by Aku Visala on the piano.

Our evening musicians Panu-Matti Pöykkö & Ismo Dunderberg

After the final session of the first day, we proceeded to enjoy some evening snack together with free conversation and more music.

The Friday morning session then consisted in some group work towards the application required for the latter part of the CoE period. In the early Friday afternoon, after lunch and the official conclusion, the board held its meeting while some other CoE members participated in a guided tour of the Villa Hvittorp.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Reflections on Recognition 26-28 May 2016

Reflections on Recognition is an international conference organized by the Centre of Excellence Reason and Religious Recognition at the University of Helsinki, 26-28 May 2016. The conference focuses on systematic and historical studies of the concepts and phenomena of recognition, and its themes are based on an international scholarly volume edited by Maijastina Kahlos, Heikki J. Koskinen and Ritva Palmén.

The programme of the event can be found under THIS LINK.

Among many others, the authors of these three
recognition volumes will be attending the Reflections conference

Right before the conference, 24-25 May, there is a workshop with the title Social Pathologies and Mutual Recognition, organized at the University of Jyväskylä. More information and the programme of the event can be found under THIS LINK.