Michel Henry between Krisis and Critique: Philosophy in the Age of Barbarism

Carla Canullo


Michel Henry was, fundamentally, neither a thinker of the Krisis, nor a philosopher
of “critical” thought. In his Barbarism, however, and his two volumes on Marx,
Henry criticized forcefully the culture of his time and place. Culture, Henry
suggests, has brought about an over-turning (rovesciamento) that has obscured life,
its inner essence. Henry’s phenomenology, which opposes itself explicitly to this
over-turning, strives to grasp, and to re-turn (controrovesciare) thought again, to
that which, in his view, has been concealed. This doubled turn—an over-turning
of an over-turning, advanced in order to restore what modern thought has
subtracted, i.e., life—represents the most fundamental, genuinely, ‘critical’ aspect
of Henry’s philosophy. The question here, then, is to see whether and how Henry’s
phenomenological proposal can regain (ritrovato) what has been forgotten and
concealed, and how this subtracted (rimosso) element can be returned (ridonato)
again to thought. If this can be clarified, the genuinely critical character of Henry’s
thought can be constituted, as capable both of protesting against its time and of
proposing elements for its renewal. In this essay, I will introduce certain
characteristic themes of Barbarism, in order to establish a connection between
barbarism and its critique. This connection will be established through a
clarification of two such radical reversals in our age; those of culture, on one hand,
and psychoanalysis on the other. In order to investigate this connection, and in
order to engage the general theme of a reversal (rovescio), I will take a detour, in
order to begin with what I will define as a forgotten overturning (rovescio).

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