Life Turned Against Itself: Is There a Theory of the Passions in Michel Henry?

Jean-Sébastien Hardy

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Michel Henry is known to be the contemporary thinker who has given the most privileged status and the deepest philosophical significance to affectivity. His whole work—from his interpretation of Biran’s ontology of subjectivity to his reading of Marx’s philosophy of human reality and his trilogy on the phenomenology of Christianity—can be read as a prolonged clarification of the foundational role of affectivity in life’s manifestation to the living. This holds true both at an epistemological level (since all knowledge implies the immediate knowledge of one’s own life) and at a phenomenological level (since the world and its objects can only appear through life’s incarnate givenness), as well as at an anthropological level (since the community of men is primarily an affective community). Ultimately, prima philosophia itself must be expressed as a philosophy of affectivity.

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