College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree



phenomenology, affectivity, christianity, life, ethics


According to Michel Henry, Western philosophy has focused solely on the appearing proper to intentional consciousness. Knowledge gained through intentionality, however, is limited to that which is visible and transcendent. From the standpoint of the phenomenology of life, this appearing is not fundamental enough: Prior to the appearing of consciousness there is the appearing of affectivity, which is the foundation of every form of appearing. Henry is thereby able to discover the hidden aspect of subjectivity, which he identifies with life. Our life is thus invisible and grounded in absolute Life, or God. It is in this sense that Henry’s phenomenology of life encounters Christianity. In this context, it is not only the subjectivity of the living (les vivants) that has to be investigated, but also its foundation in absolute Life (vie absolue), or God. The human condition, therefore, can be described by Henry in theological terms as that of the “son of God.” This perspective has important implications for ethics, especially when one considers that, from the standpoint of Henry’s phenomenology, ethics has its foundation in life. But if ethics must be rooted in life, it must be identified with praxis in the specific sense given to this concept by Henry, notably through his Marx reading. The truth of Christianity, in particular, offers an understanding of life that radically departs from any “truth of the world” and where ethics as praxis is nothing other than the doing of the invisible God. Must it not be concluded, then, that, by rediscovering the Scriptures through his phenomenological approach, the phenomenology of life rediscovers Christian ethics as the only way to “salvation,” and as the only way to overcome practices of barbarism? In this study, I follow Henry’s arguments with regard to 1) the appearing of affectivity and 2) the necessity for ethics as the culture of life. I then examine Henry’s understanding of the truth of Christianity and show how Christian ethics is fundamentally different from other ethical approaches. I conclude with the thesis that such ethics as praxis is the result of a convergence of Henry’s phenomenology of life with Christianity. Such ethics requires a “second birth,” as well as “faith.” As I hope to show, these requirements are intelligible both within the boundaries of philosophy and in praxis understood as invisible, divine action.

Available for download on Wednesday, September 27, 2028