“Spiritual Acoustics”: On Being In Common (Kierkegaard, Husserl, Henry)

Kevin Hart

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Kierkegaard steadily maintains, against Lessing, that Jesus’s contemporaries had no advantage as regards faith merely because they had personal experience of him. It is a view proposed both by Johannes Climacus and Anti-Climacus, as well as over Kierkegaard’s own signature; it is indirectly communicated and then directly communicated, and so the importance of becoming a true contemporary of Jesus can hardly be underestimated in the authorship, including the later journals. When Michel Henry considers this motif in his Phénoménologie matérielle (1990) he says that it is one feature of what Kierkegaard calls “’the strange acoustics of the spiritual world’ [l’étrange acoustique du monde spirituel].” These acoustics are not those we learn about in physics: “the laws of being in common are not in fact those belonging to things and the laws of perception,” and this claim gives Henry an opportunity to continue a long standing argument with Husserl. For “here” and “there” in Henry’s account of inter-subjectivity have no relation to the intersubjectivity that is explored in the fifth of the Cartesian Meditations. Indeed, Henry goes on to say, “This spiritual acoustics, which defies the laws of perception, defines our concrete relation to the other”; that is, it gives the “how” of the relation rather than the “what” or “why.”

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