I Want to Know More About You: On Knowing and Acknowledging in Chinatown

In Garry L. Hagberg (ed.), Stanley Cavell on Aesthetic Understanding. pp. 3-35 (2018)
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What is the difference between knowing someone and acknowledging them? Is it possible to want to be acknowledged while remaining unknown? And if one’s desire to know another person is too consuming, can this foreclose the possibility of acknowledgment? Cavell argues that we sometimes avoid the ethical problem of acknowledgment by (mis)conceiving our relations with others in terms of knowledge and that this epistemic misconception can actually amount to a form of ethical harm. I show that Polanski’s Chinatown helps us understand the difference between knowing and acknowledging and that Cavell’s concepts help us better appreciate Chinatown.

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Francey Russell
Barnard College


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