Life and the Community of the Living: a Foundation for Personalism or for Post-humanism?

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Despite the countless differences existing between their doctrines and theories, personalists seem to agree that persons are self-aware individual entities, both subject and object, animal and spiritual, which find themselves in a immediate and unmediated relation with their living being whose identity and potentiality is expressed trough their dynamic inter-relations. Although they are conditioned by the historical circumstances of their birth (both symbolic and material) persons are believed to be free and capable of creating and of transforming themselves and their political environment through innovative acts resulting from their will and inspired by their thought and imagination.
In the description of the absolute community of life given by French phenomenologist Michel Henry, the community of the living who have nothing in common but the possibility of suffering and enjoying their own dynamism and the myriad of phenomena of the manifest cosmos which they are affected by and can in turn affect, individuals are likewise considered as self-aware and inter-relational subjectivities irreducible to any representational mediation but originating every symbolic and figural reality through which their self-awareness and the coincident awareness of life is expressed. Living individuals constitutively affect each other and express such active and passive inter-affection in the historical becoming of culture, with its practices and representations.
Yet, despite all that their theories have in common, can we really consider Henry as one of the 20th century personalists? Doesn’t his theory of the inter-relational affective subjects rather incline towards an understanding common to philosophies which are not centred in any human narcissism or self-ideal, like those that stress the inter-dependence of the living? Both his Phenomenology of community, as much as David Abram’s Becoming Animal, Emanuele Coccia’s The Life of Plants, or Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto, seem to allow us to extend the community of inter-affective and inter-expressive life entities to infra-personal and more-than-human forms and elements which are both natural ( like vegetation and other animals, like air, water, fire and earth ) or artificial ( like any technical entity resulting from human inventions stemming from the pathos of life ) thus rather seeming to contribute to the foundation of a post-humanist worldview.
Period5 Apr 2023
Event titleInternational Interdisciplinary Conference: The Idea of Person – Between Being and Becoming
Event typeConference
LocationLisboa, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Life
  • Self-affection
  • Embodiment
  • Breathing
  • Living Forms
  • Interdependence