Phenomenality and Finitude: Michel Henry’s Theory of Immanence

Roberto Formisano

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In the following essay, I will examine the connection between phenomenality and
finitude, a problem developed by Michel Henry in The Essence of Manifestation
in the context of a close dialogue with Heidegger and Kant on the theme of time
and self-affection. Henry’s consideration of Kant’s transcendental philosophy, and
of his conception of time as self-affection, appears in § 24 of The Essence of
Manifestation, in the context of what Henry himself terms the “problématique” of
The Essence of Manifestation as such, the “critique of ontological monism.” It does so, then, in the context of Henry’s “interpretation of the essence of phenomenality… within the fundamental ontological presuppositions of monism,” in which Henry situates, and develops, the decisive problem of the receptivity of transcendence. The conclusive moment of this critique is provided by Henry’s ontological interpretation of Kant, through a point-by-point “contrelecture” of Heidegger’s own Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik. This constitutes only a final moment (or even a “simple repetition”) of a long critical path, that was always directed to the “essential interconnection of being and human finitude,” the “coappartenance” that, in the wake of Heidegger, contemporary phenomenological ontology would establish between the essence of phenomenality and finitude, on the basis of the transcendence of Dasein. The determination of the structure of the latter, which is the true task of Henry’s ‘ontological interpretation’ of Kant, is initiated already in the first part of L’essence de la manifestation, which thus will be the focus of my analysis herein. My intention is to reconstitute the methodological and theoretical foundations on which rest, ultimately, the phänomenologische Aufweisung—in the Heideggerian sense of a “démonstration phénoménologique” and a “mise en lumière”—of the internal incoherence of the ontological presuppositions of monism, as constitutes the pars destruens of this foundational work of Henry’s phenomenology.


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