When prodded for some details about his biography Michel Henry responded:
I would like to tell you how much I feel stripped away by the very idea of a biography. For one who thinks that the true self for us all is a no-worldly self, foreign to every empirical or objective determination, the attempt to approach him through these kinds of reference points seems to be problematic. The history of a man, the circumstances which surround him, are they anything other than a sort of mask, more or less flattering, that he and others agree to put on his face–he who, at bottom, has no face.
I think I like this…
Michel Henry was one of the leading French philosophers of the twentieth century. His numerous works of philosophy are all organized around the theme of life. In contrast to the scientific understanding of life as a biological process, Henry’s philosophy develops a conception of life as an immediate feeling of one’s own living.
Seeing the Invisible marks Henry’s most sustained engagement in the field of aesthetics. Through an analysis of the life and works of Wassily Kandinsky, Henry uncovers the philosophical significance of Kandinsky’s revolution in painting: that abstract art reveals the invisible essence of life. Henry shows that Kandinsky separates color and line from the constraints of visible form and, in so doing, conveys the invisible intensity of life. More than just a study of art history, this book presents Kandinsky as an artist who is engaged in the project of painting the invisible and thus offers invaluable methodological clues for Henry’s own phenomenology of the invisible.
More information here.
- Imprint: Continuum
- Pub. date: 15 Jun 2009
- ISBN: 9781847064479
- 160 Pages, paperback $21.95
Our friend over at However Fallible has translated a good deal of an interview with Michel Henry that touches on a range of issues about art, experience and phenomenology. Read it from the beginning here. I found this exchange particularly interesting, especially Henry’s use of and discussion of Kandindky.
Q: In Material Phenomenology you analyze the “invisible phenomenological substance” that is “the pathetic immediacy in which life experiences itself.” If, as you claim, life is “the principle of everything,” how can one envisage a phenomenology of the invisible or more exactly of the relation between the visible and invisible from the point of view of art? Related question, is the work of art visible or invisible, immanent or transcendant, objective or subjective, internal or external? Here we are referring to the phenomenological reflections of Roman Ingarden.
MH: The questions that you have posed are my questions… Marx says somewhere that Humanity only asks questions that it can answer. I would say, in all modesty, that insofar as being a philosopher working outside of the paths followed by modern thought, I have been in a precarious position in relation to what I have wanted to say, namely it has been very difficult for me to find the conceptual means to express a wholly other phenomenology. A phenomenology sure, but wholly other since my understanding of appearing is not only the appearing of the world, but pathetic givenness, pathetic revelation. Continue reading
We bloggers (ack) are always tediously prating upon whatever trivial notion enters our field of vision, but today I’ve decided to jot down some things I’m not doing. Here’s a few interesting, but unread articles collecting dust on my desk (in handy pdf form). What can I do? I’m distracted by the Euro Cup (which generally involves beers) and now, in addition to that there’s the near constant Wimbledon coverage (where I can watch everyone mis-pronounce Shahar Peer’s name, it’s not Shah-har, it’s Shachhhh-arr, Mary Carrillo!). Watching Dick Enberg falling apart on air is always fun, give these people a coffee break! Not to mention, um, you know, teaching. There’s always that. These all look worth paying some attention to, someday:
1. Michel Henry, “Material Phenomenology (or, Pathos and Language)” [pathos_and_language]
2. Here’s Jacques Derrida and Francois Laruelle chit chatting about some stuff: “Controversy over the Possibility of a Science of Philosophy” [laruelle-derrida]
And here’s two by Graham Harman:
3. “On Vicarious Causation” [harman_vicarious_causation]
4. “The Metaphysics of Objects: Latour and his Aftermath” [harmangraham-latour]
Fido the Yak has been reading all the yet unread Michel Henry articles sitting on my desk. In a recent post about Michel Henry and the intertwining of self, others, world and language, “Existence Says,” Fido the Yak writes
Nominalization (or reference) hardly begins to describe what language does or is. Reference is petty. Unconcealing is petty. This judgment is the basis of my profound disagreement with Henry. The language of the world is not indifferent: not to the things it names, nor to the world, nor to speakers nor listeners, nor to itself, nor to the operations, feelings, entities, assemblages nor intertwinements it brushes up against. This is of course a crude way of phrasing things. There are languages and there are worlds, and before we can ever come to a question of whether a language is its own world, which may not be to say that it is enclosed or isolated, we stumble across the question of what a language is (or does). We should probably say “does” at this point to give speaking precedence over Speech or Language (*language) though it may raise a question of whether the epoché says anything, whether it is speaking or speech, the saying or the said or an altogether different sort of operation.
I can’t help but note (read into?) a veiled reference to Levinas here and thought of Levinas’s own comments regarding sincerity and Saying. Continue reading
From Fordham University Press:
Michel Henry, Translated by Scott Davidson
Fordham University Press
Requisite Pre-Publication Praise:
“A very important contribution to the foundation and the method of philosophy.”
—Adriaan T. Peperzak, Loyola University, Chicago“
One of the most accessible introductions to the thought of one of 20th-century France’s most important phenomenologists.”
—Jeffrey Kosky, Washington & Lee University
Informative Blurb: This book is Michel Henry’s most sustained investigation of Husserlian phenomenology. With painstaking detail and precision, Henry reveals the decisive methodological assumptions that led Husserlian phenomenology in the direction of Idealism. Returning to the materiality of life, Henry’s material phenomenology situates central phenomenological themes— intentionality, temporality, embodiment, and intersubjectivity—within the full concreteness of life. One of the most accessible of Henry’s books, Material Phenomenology is essential reading for those interested in the future of phenomenology or in a philosophy of life in the truest sense.