Studia Phaenomenologica, Volume 9/ 2009: Michel Henry’s Radical Phenomenology

HATEM, Jad; KÜHN, Rolf (eds.)


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Jad Hatem, Rolf KühnIntroduction [OPEN ACCESS]


Michel HenryDestruction ontologique de la critique kantienne du paralogisme de la psychologie rationnelle

Abstract: This previously unpublished text of Michel Henry’s was written during the preparation of his first major work published in 1963: The Essence of Manifestation. Being devoted to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, this extensive text could be as well integrated in the above mentioned book, namely in the context where the author criticizes the ontological monism privileged by the strong tradition of German philosophy, from Jacob Boehme and Kant to Heidegger. Starting from the topic of self-knowledge, this text focuses on an internal division of Being, namely on the separation between consciousness and existence, an opposition that will take the form of a phenomenological distance. The author argues thus that the above mentioned German philosophical tradition is not able to grasp in its primordial nature the essence of the self, covered by the representation.

Michel HenryLettre à Bernard Forthomme (20 avril 1979)


Julia ScheideggerMichel Henrys Lebensphänomenologie als Hermeneutikkritik

Abstract: This essay tries to show how Michel Henry’s Phenomenology of Life can be understood as a valuable criticism of hermeneutical philosophy and especially of hermeneutical phenomenology in the manner Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur had conceptualized it. Using Michel Henry’s concept of phenomenological distance, it will be shown here that on the basis of every hermeneutics there lies the classical topos of the auctorial intention that was once gained by the interpretation of texts and is simply ontologized by hermeneutical philosophers. What follows from such a perspective is that human life seems to be ontologically separated form itself, against which Michel Henry tries to show that each life can only be humane, both in relation to itself as well as to others, if it affects itself without any distance.

José Ruiz FernándezLogos and Immanence in Michel Henry’s Phenomenology

Abstract: In this paper, I will reflect on the place of language within Michel Henry’s phenomenology. I will claim that Michel Henry’s position provokes an architectonic problem in his conception of phenomenology and I will discuss how he tried to solve it. At the end of the essay, I will try to clarify what I believe to be the ultimate root of that problem involving language.

Jeffrey HansonMichel Henry’s Critique of the Limits of Intuition

Abstract: Intuition is surely a theme of singular importance to phenomenology, and Henry writes sometimes as if intuition should receive extensive attention from phenomenologists. However, he devotes relatively little attention to the problem of intuition himself. Instead he off ers a complex critique of intuition and the central place it enjoys in phenomenological speculation. This article reconstructs Henry’s critique and raises some questions for his counterintuitive theory of intuition. While Henry cannot make a place for the traditional sort of intuition given his commitment to the primacy of life as the natural and spontaneous habitation of consciousness, an abode entirely outside the world, there nevertheless with some modification to Henry’s thinking could be a role for intuition to play in discerning the traces of life in the world.

Benoît Ghislain KanabusVie absolue et Archi-Soi: Naissance de la proto-relationnalité

Abstract: This article assumes that the Henryan concept of Archi-Ipseity is, in its internal unique structure, divided in two modalities — one potential and one actual — and that it derives from the organic concatenation of the transcendental process of the self-engendering of absolute Life. This hypothesis of an inner division of the Archi-Ipseity solves several textual ambiguities present Henry’s works, for exemple the fact that Henry’s text plays between antecedence and co-presence of hyper-power life and Archi-Ipseity: the Archi-Ipseity, although engendered by life, is simultaneously the condition and the accomplishment of this process.

Antoine VidalinL’acte humain dans la phénoménologie de la vie

Abstract: The question of action or praxis has not been treated in particular by Michel Henry in his works. However, this subject is present at each step of his reflexion. This article makes a synthesis on this matter, taking into account all of his works, especially the last books on Christianity (which, in our view, fulfill the phenomenology of life). Having determined the immanent dialectic of action (from the gift of the power in the generation and the in-carnation of the First Living), we can understand, following Michel Henry, the ethics of Life as the Commandment of Love. From such a perspective, the sin and the salvation can be reconnected to the native relation of the living with the Life.


Christoph MoonenTouching from a Distance: In Search of the Self in Henry and Kierkegaard

Abstract: In elaborating his phenomenological project, Michel Henry refers to Søren Kierkegaard. After a brief survey of Henry’s phenomenology of the self, we will inquire whether this appropriation is accurate. It will be argued that Kierkegaard’s dialectics of existence can operate as a therapy or corrective in order to save Henry’s project of a radical immanent and passive self. If not, it suffers from incoherence both from a phenomenological as well as from a theological perspective. Each self-consciousness, even in its most extreme aff ective states, cannot dispose itself of refl ective remnants. On the contrary, it is precisely Kierkegaard’s proposition that refl ection intensifi es pathos. What appears as most near and dear to us, be it God, self or life, always touches from a distance.

Camille RiquierHenry, Bergson et la phénoménologie matérielle

Abstract: Michel Henry recognized himself within Maine de Biran’s work, while rejecting the French spiritualistic tradition to which this one was attached. However, without occulting the great differences which separate him from this tradition, it seems that we find in Bergson’s first book, more than in Maine de Biran, the premises of an ontological dualism, such as he supported, which announces an authentic philosophy of the conscience, beyond any intentionality. In return, as if Michel Henry had emphasized a tendency already present in Time and Free Will, we could read again Bergson’s first book in the light of material phenomenology itself.

Raphaël GélyL’imaginaire et l’aff ectivité originaire de la perception: Une relecture henrienne du débat entre Sartre et Merleau-Ponty

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to offer a Henrian interpretation of the debate between Sartre and Merleau-Ponty concerning the place of the imaginary in the perceptive life. The hypothesis is that in Sartre, Merleau-Ponty and Henry, the role of the imaginary in the original affective experience which the perceptive life has of its own intrinsic vulnerability can be investigated on three levels: the articulation between the absolute dimension and the egological dimension of consciousness in Sartre, the genesis of perception in the body in Merleau-Ponty, and the immanent adherence of the perceptive act to the radical suffering of its own force in Henry. From each of these three levels, the paper shows that without an imaginary in charge of bringing it back constantly to the experience of its own original vulnerability, the perceptive life is bound to lose the aff ective density of its relation to the perceived, and therefore is bound to become disincarnate.

Niall KeaneWhy Henry’s Critique of Heidegger Remains Problematic: Appearing and Speaking in Heidegger and Henry

Abstract: This paper addresses a hitherto unexamined issue in the work of Michel Henry, namely, his critical interpretation of Martin Heidegger’s analysis of “appearing” and “speaking.” Throughout his distinguished career, Henry went to great philosophical lengths to distance himself from traditional phenomenology and from the work of Heidegger. However, for the most part, Henry’s critical reading of Heidegger has received little attention from phenomenologists and even that has been cursory. Hence, the central aim of this paper is twofold: (1) to show that Henry’s critique of the “appearing” and “speaking” of the world remains unanswered; and (2) to show that a proper reading of Heidegger throws light on the shortcomings of Henry’s own project. Hence, because the second objective follows necessarily from having achieved the first, this paper submits that what is first needed is a re-assessment of Henry’s critique in light of a more accurate understanding of the depth-dimension of “appearing” and “speaking,” which is, I argue, evinced in the analysis of the voice of conscience in Being and Time. The paper subsequentlyoffers what I see as a more appropriate interpretation of the call of conscience in terms of a radicalised “transcendence in immanence” which is not reducible to the mere exteriority of inner-worldly beings. The paper concludes by arguing that the voice of conscience underscores the shortfalls of Henry’s critique of the “appearing” and “speaking” of the world in Heidegger.

Rolf Kühn„Wiederholung“ als Habitualität und Potentialität: Michel Henry und Gilles Deleuze

Abstract: The repetition of life is being examined on the basis of Henry’s analysis of life as a performance beyond habitualization as sedimentation in Husserl’s approach, as well as a difference in immanent conceptualization on the premise of the coveting organless body according to Deleuze. In contrast to this “nomadic thinking,” which always remains non-subjective, the emphasis in the original reciprocity of life and body is put on the basic transcendentality of the effective repetition of life in the bodily memorial of the radical phenomenological habitualization.

Sébastien LaoureuxMaterial phenomenology to the test of Deconstruction: Michel Henry and Derrida

Abstract: What would be the result of reading Derrida from the standpoint of material phenomenology? And what would be the result of reading material phenomenology on the basis of the requirements of Derridean thought? These are the questions that this article endeavours to tackle by focusing on the two philosophers’ readings of Husserl’s Lectures on the Consciousness of Internal Time. At first strangely similar, these two readings soon display marked differences. Whereas Derrida, in his approach, is keen to demonstrate that there is never any pure presence, Michel Henry brings out an “Archi-presence” which he attempts to safeguard from any deconstruction. So perhaps material phenomenology functions as “quasi-deconstruction”, having the same relationship with Derridean thought as “negative theology” has with deconstruction.


Jad HatemL’art comme phénoménologie de la subjectivité absolue: Henry et Balzac

Abstract: First we try to show that Henry’s philosophy of art meets Schelling’s ambition of exposing art as an organon of a philosophy of pathetic subjectivity (against the theory of imitation or reproduction). In this regard, Balzac’s novels serve as an illustration showing art to be the model of nature and not the other way round. Then Balzac’s main novel dealing with artistic creation, the Unknown Masterpiece, is interpreted using Henry’s grid, as an anticipation of Kandinsky’s abstraction.

Ruud WeltenWhat do we hear when we hear music?: A radical phenomenology of music

Abstract: In this contribution I want to sketch a phenomenology of music, expounding and expanding the philosophy of Michel Henry. In the work of Henry, several approaches to a phenomenology of music are made. The central question of the contribution is: “What do we hear when we hear music?” It is argued that there is an unbridgeable divide between the intentional sphere of the world and its sounds and what in Henry’s philosophy is understood as Life. Music is the language of Life itself and cannot be merely considered a composition of sound. Music does not imitate nor even represent the world, but is the inner movement of life itself. In this respect, Henry is close to Schopenhauer’s view on music, in which the Will is sharply contrasted to representation. However Schopenhauer’s thought needs a phenomenological elaboration in order to understand music as an immediate experience. In the article, music is compared to painting, since this is a recurring methodological theme in Henry’s thoughts on music.

Jean ReaidyLa connaissance absolue et l’essence de la vérité chez Maître Eckhart et Michel Henry

Abstract: This study approaches the question of absolute knowledge in its mystical and phenomenological essence. Henry’s phenomenology of life, by seeking the truth in its living donation, rejoins the source of phenomenality in an invisible way. This truth which vivifies our interiority is, in its depth, a divine revelation. When we let us receive ourselves in the invisible truth of God, we are this same truth that we feel immediately in our living flesh.

Jean LeclercqLa provenance de la chair: Le souci henryen de la contingence

Abstract: What’s worth a philosophy which achieves a phenomenological reduction in an opposite direction of Husserl’s one? This contribution, disputing Rudolf Bernet’s accurate critiques, intends to demonstrate that Michel Henry doesn’t take a “theological turn” by investigating the Christian Logos, but chooses it as a philosophical proof of his previous researches about affectivity as rationality, which were stemming from a rigorous analysis of everyday life. According to Henry and his New Testament interpretation, truth is affectivity and life, and because there’s an “ipséité” in life, truth is a self. Yet, the Greek Logos just can’t consider the profoundness of life but the bodies, whereas the fleshy living Self generates and feels it in the fi rst and pathetic immanence.

Ovidiu-Sorin PodarLa vie en tant que Vie: Lecture théologique d’une tautologie, entre Michel Henry et saint Maxime le Confesseur

Abstract: The phenomenological tautology of life in Michel Henry’s works shows us that the radical concept of self-affection, in its own immanence, cannot be described in another way, either by metaphor or analogy for example, but only by that immediate relation like adequacy on itself: “life as life”. The reduplication of the fundamental concept in Henry’s last “theological” turn introduced a new Transcendence: the Self-Affection of the Absolute Life, the Christian God as Revelation. In this way, we can diversify the tautology of life trying to read it using Saint Maximus the Confessor’s theology: “Life as Life” like the Absolute phenomenological Life of Trinity in Unity; “life as Life” for the creation of the human living by the Living God; “life as life” for the existence of the man, ek-sisting in a world affected by the original transgression; “Life as life” for the Incarnation of the Logos of God; “life as Life — 2” for the rebirth of the human living into Christ and His Mystical Body.


Marc Maesschalck, Benoît Ghislain KanabusPour un point de vue d’immanence en sciences humaines

Abstract: This article shows how, starting from Schelling and Henry, one can build a radical critique of objectification and subjectification within humanities. This critique opens the way for the construction of a point of view of immanence, which is characterized by the experimentation of a constitution of affects in a process from which proceeds the subjectivity. This point of view of immanence questions the accepted attitudes in the production of social relationships and the norms that govern them, so as to increase the attention to the vulnerability of these processes and their power to transform the affects.

Frédéric SeylerMichel Henry et la critique du politique

Abstract: Does Michel Henry’s Phenomenology of life include an ethical and political dimension? It appears that the writings about Marx already include such aspects, especially in reference to the problem of social determinism. More generally, however, our attention must be focused on what Henry calls the transcendental genesis of politics which accounts for the lack of autonomy of the political field, just like in the case of economics. Politics may then be analyzed against that background, for instance in the writings on totalitarianism and democracy. The frame given by transcendental genesis is also tied to the fundamental opposition between barbarism and culture which pervades the axiological implications of Henry’s work. Because culture is always referring to a “culture of life,” it allows connecting life and its immanent reality with ethical/political questions.

Michael StaudiglDie Hypostase des Politischen und das Prinzip des Faschismus: Zur Kritik des Politischen nach Michel Henry

Abstract: In this article I discuss Michel Henry’s concept of the political. I firstly show how it is derived within his radical phenomenology, secondly give an outline of his respective critique of totalitarianism, and finally question whether his approach is appropriate for adequately thinking the relationship between the social body and its symbolization, which is of paramount importance for any theoretical consideration of the political.

Eric FaÿOrganisation virtuelle, travail réel: Une critique henryenne de l’organisation virtuelle du travail humain

Abstract: This article presents a phenomenological perspective on the “virtual organisation” where people are obliged to work at a distance and where contact with others is limited to that of an electronic network. Drawing on Husserl, we see that when the “as-if ”presence is contrived in such a way, the organisation obstructs the life of consciousness. Furthermore, relying on Michel Henry’s writings, we explain how removing the parameter of “flesh” as a factor structuring encounters, this organizational form profoundly restricts the dynamism of the acting, subjective life.


Jean-Yves LacosteL’objet: constitution et réduction

Abstract: The article aims at providing a precise concept of the “object” as a being which appears in the field of perception without appearing to affection. Consequences follow: (a) what appears to us runs the perpetual danger of appearing only to perception, and therefore of being constituted as an object; (b) objectity belongs to most beings and is not the fruit of a constitution involving only our subjective causality; (c) what appears to us is also what we can reduce to its being ready-to-hand: technology and science begin where beings appear to us as objects; (d) the reality of objectity proves the partial legitimacy of metaphysics, and proves as well that no access to Being is possible except through the mediation of modes of being; (e) meanwhile, one has learnt to bypass the concept of “subject”: only “quasi-subjects” are available in the realm of experience.

Fausto FraisopiExpérience et horizon chez Husserl: Contextualité et synthèse à partir du concept de « représentation vide »

Abstract: The work on the sixth Logical Investigation presents, to Husserl and moreover to transcendental phenomenology a new set of problems, questions and theoretical issues, which are deeply related to the concept of intuitive fulfilment. Here, the relation between core and halo, developed in 1908, must be integrated with the concept of horizon as a fundamental stucture of perception and every other kind of experience. The experience also became a contextual experience, essentially related and determined from a contextual situationality. More generally, each appearance consists of a whole system of appearances that are empty of content but are also potential manifestations of the same type. The state of consciousness depends upon the openness to pre-traced potentialities. The horizon, which is part of the noematic dimension described in Ideen I, begins here to presents itself as this fundamental intentional structure. The transcendental fixation of the concept of horizon therefore requires the further elaboration found in §§ 33-34, texts that specifically address the notion of “empty representations.”

Christian Ferencz-FlatzThe Neutrality of Images and Husserlian Aesthetics

Abstract: Although most interpreters admit that Husserl was not guided by an interest in aesthetics when dealing with the various issues of image consciousness, his considerations are nevertheless usually interpreted in an aesthetic key. The article intends to challenge this line of interpretation by clearly separating between the neutrality of image consciousness, on one hand, and the disinterest of the aesthetic attitude towards reality, on the other hand, as well as by reviewing the elements in Husserl’s theory that led to their association.

Dimitri GinevInterpretative Erschlossenheit der endlichen Existenz und mathematische Unendlichkeit: Zur Oskar Beckers Phänomenologie des Transfiniten

Abstract: The paper attempts to elucidate and evaluate Oskar Becker’s search for a complementarity between the paradigm of constitutional analysis put forward by Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology and constructivism as a meta-mathematical position suggesting criteria for existence of the mathematical objects. At stake is the issue of the possibility of an existential analytic of “the mathematical”. In this regard, a special attention is paid to the temporality of “mathematical existence”. Th e paper invites new forms of a dialogue between phenomenology and philosophy of mathematics.


Enrico Vicinelli PolucciHenry-Studien in Italien

ISBN: 978-973-50-2553-3

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