Article on Phenomenologiocal Life
(C) 1988-2009 Philippe Audinos

Contributions to existing articles :

Rough outlines of articles :

Return to the main page

Article on phenomenological Life

Phenomenological definition of Life

Phenomenological life is the life considered from a philosophical and rigorously phenomenological point of view. It has been defined by the philosopher Michel Henry as what possesses the faculty and the power "to feel and to experience oneself in every point of its being".

For Michel Henry, the life is essentially subjective force and affectivity, it consists in a pure subjective experience of oneself which oscillates permanently between suffering and joy. A "subjective force" is not an impersonal, blind and insensitive force like those we meet in nature, but a living and sensible force experienced from the interior and resulting from an inner desire and from a subjective effort of the will to satisfy it. He also establishes a radical opposition between the living flesh endowed with sensibility and the material body, which is by principle insensitive, in his book Incarnation, a philosophy of the flesh.

The word "phenomenological" refers to phenomenology, which is the science of the phenomenon and a philosophical method which is reduced to study the phenomena as they appear. What he has called the "absolute phenomenological life" is the subjective life of the individuals reduced to its pure inner manifestation, as we live it and feel it permanently. It is the life as it reveals itself and appears inwardly, its self-revelation : the life is both what reveals and what is revealed.

Properties of phenomenological Life

This life is invisible by nature because it never appears in the exteriority of a look, it reveals in itself without gap nor distance. The fact of seeing supposes indeed the existence of a distance and of a separation between what is seen and the one who sees it, between the object that is perceived and the subject who perceives it. A feeling for example can never be seen from the exterior, it never appears in the "horizon of visibility" of the world, it feels itself and experiences itself from the inner of the radical immanence of life. Love canít be seen, no more than hatred, feelings are felt in the secret of our heart, where no look can penetrate.

This life is composed of sensitivity and affectivity, it is the unity of their manifestation, the affectivity being however the essence of the sensibility as Michel Henry has shown it in his book on The Essence of the Manifestation, which means that any sensation is affective by nature. Life is the foundation of our subjective experience (like the subjective experience of a sorrow, of seeing a color or the pleasure of drinking fresh water in summer) and of our subjective powers (the subjective power of moving the hand or the eyes for example).

Phenomenological vs. biological Life

This phenomenological definition of life is founded on our concrete subjective experience we make of life in our own existence, it thus corresponds to human life. About the other forms of life studied by biology and from which Heidegger derives its own philosophical conception of life, Michel Henry writes in his book I am the Truth. Toward a Philosophy of Christianity (ß 3, p. 47) : "Is it not paradoxical for someone who wants to know what life is to go and ask protozoa, or, at best, honeybees ? It is as if we had a relation with life that was every bit as totally external and fragile as the one we have with beings about which we know nothing Ė or very little. As if we were not ourselves living."


Article on God

Phenomenological definition of God

The philosopher Michel Henry defines God in a phenomenological point of view. He says : ę God is Life, he is the essence of Life, or, if we prefer, the essence of Life is God. Saying this we already know what is God, we know it not by the effect of a learning or of some knowledge, we donít know it by the thought, on the background of the truth of the world ; we know it and we can know it only in and by the Life itself. We can know it only in God. Ľ (I Am the Truth. Toward a Philosophy of Christianity).

This Life is not biological life defined by objective and exterior properties, nor an abstract and empty philosophical concept, but the absolute phenomenological life, a radically immanent life which possesses in it the power of showing itself in itself without distance, a life which reveals permanently itself. A manifestation of oneself and a self-revelation which doesnít consist in the fact of seeing outside of oneself or of perceiving the exterior world, but in the fact of feeling and of feeling oneself, of experiencing in oneself its own inner and affective reality.

As Michel Henry says also in this same book, "God is that pure Revelation that reveals nothing other than itself. God reveals Himself. The Revelation of God is his self-revelation". God is in himself revelation, he is the primordial Revelation that tears everything from nothingness, a revelation which is the pathetic self-revelation, that's to say the absolute suffering and self-enjoyment of Life. As John says, God is love, because Life loves itself in an infinite and eternal love.

Michel Henry opposes to the notion of creation, which is the creation of the world, the notion of generation of Life. The creation of the world consists in the opening of this exteriority horizon where every thing becomes visible. Whereas Life never stops to generate itself and to generate all the livings in its radical immanence, in its absolute phenomenological interiority that is without gap nor distance.

As we are living and by consequence generated continually by the infinite Life of God, as he never stops to give us life, and as we never cease of being born into the eternal present of life by the action in us of this absolute Life, God is for Christianity our Father and we are its beloved Sons, the Sons of the living God. This doesnít only mean that he has created us at the time of our conception or at the beginning of the world, but that he never stops to generate us permanently into Life, that he is always at work in us in the least of our subjective impressions.

Quotes on God

Article on Truth

Truth of Life

The French philosopher Michel Henry explains in his book I am the Truth. Toward a philosophy of Christianity what Christianity considers as being the Truth and which he calls the Truth of Life. He shows that this Christian conception of Truth opposes to what men usually consider as the truth, which comes from the Greek thought and which he calls the truth of the world. But what is truth ? Truth is what shows itself and proves in this way its reality by its effective manifestation in us or in the world.

The truth of the world refers to an external and objective truth, a truth in which everything appears as an object visible in front of our sight and at distance of us, thatís to say in a representation form which is distinct from what it shows : when weíre looking at an apple, thatís not the apple in itself that we see but a simple image of the apple which appears is our sensibility and which changes according to the light and our view angle. Similarly, when weíre looking at the face of a person, thatís not this person in herself that we perceive, but a simple image of her face, its visible appearance in the world. According to this conception of truth, life is only an ensemble of objective properties, characterized for example by the need of eating or by the aptitude to reproduce itself.

In Christianity, Life is brought back to its inner reality which is absolutely subjective and radically immanent. Life considered in its phenomenological reality, thatís simply the faculty and the subjective power to feel sensations, small pleasures and big sorrows, to feel desires or feelings, to move our body from the inside exerting a subjective effort, or even to think. All those faculties possess the fundamental characteristic of appearing and of showing themselves in themselves, without gap nor distance, we never perceive them in the outside of our being or in front of our sight, but only in us : we coincide with every one of these powers. Life is in itself a power of manifestation and of revelation, and what it manifests thatís itself, in its pathetic self-revelation. A revelation power which is at work in us permanently and which we always forget.

The Truth of Life is absolutely subjective, thatís to say that it is independent from our subjective beliefs and tastes : the perception of a colored sensation or of a pain for example is not a matter of personal preference, thatís a fact and an incontestable inner experience which is the concern of the absolute subjectivity of Life. The Truth of Life doesnít differ from what it makes true, it is not distinct from what manifests in it. This Truth is the manifestation itself in its pure inner revelation : thatís this Life that Christianity calls God.

The Truth of Life is not a relative truth variable from one individual to an other, but the absolute Truth which founds from the inside every one of our faculties and every one of our powers, and which enlightens the lesser of our impressions. This Truth of Life is not an abstract and indifferent truth, it is on the opposite for man what is the most essential, because it alone can lead him to salvation by identifying inwardly with it and by becoming Son of God, instead of loosing himself in the world.


Article on Evil

Western Views on Evil

Michel Henry

For the French philosopher Michel Henry, God is the invisible Life that never stops to generate us and to give us to ourselves in its pathetic self-revelation. God is Love because Life loves itself in an infinite love. By consequence life is good in itself. The evil corresponds to all what denies or attacks life, it finds its origin in death which is the negation of life. This death is an inner and spiritual death which is the separation with God, and which consists simply in not loving, in living selfishly as if God didn't exist, as if he was not our Father of us all and as if we were not all its beloved Sons, as if we were not all Brothers generated by a same Life. The evil peaks in the violence of hatred that is at the origin of all forms of barbarism, of all crimes, of all wars and of all genocides. But the evil is also the common origin of all those blind processes and of all those false abstractions that lead so many people to misery and exclusion.

Article on the Philosophy of Life

Michel Henry

Life is traditionally understood on an exterior point of view as an ensemble of objective properties which define life in the biological sense of the term, that of the material body. Nevertheless, life possesses an inner component which is the concern of the most radical subjectivity, of an absolute immanence sphere in which we are permanently immerged and with which we coincide.

In a sense, life is the most simple, but the most simple is also often what is the most difficult to think. This is the immense merit of the phenomenological work of the philosopher Michel Henry to have reduced the life notion to the essential, because it is simply what we are and the foundation and the essence of the manifestation, which is the self-affection

We know what is life in an absolute knowledge which precedes all knowledge and all philosophy because we are livings, we already belong to this life that we know from the interior, which founds our being and every one of our powers, as for example thought

Michel Henry defines life in a phenomenological point of view as what possesses the faculty and the power to feel and to experience oneself in every point of its being For Michel Henry, life is essentially force and affect, it consists in a pure experience of itself which oscillates permanently between the suffering and the joy. He opposes radically the living flesh and the material body in its book Incarnation, a philosophy of the flesh.

Encouraged reproduction

Original version of new articles and personal contributions to existing articles written by Philippe Audinos and added to the free encyclopedia Wikipedia on the site These texts can be freely reproduced and diffused under the condition to keep the reference to Wikipedia.

Version 0.4 of the 12/22/2010
(C) 2002-2010 Philippe Audinos
Return to the main page