The phenomenological concept of respiratory essence of human existence
Petri Berndtson (University of Jyväskylä)
Paper short abstract:
In my presentation I will rethink phenomenologically the fundamental philosophical question of anthropology “what is a human being?” within the atmosphere of breathing. This phenomenological perspective gives us perhaps a chance to redefine the essence of human existence in respiratory terms.
Paper long abstract:
In my presentation I will rethink the following fundamental philosophical questions of anthropology "what is a human being?" and "what is humanity?" within the atmosphere of breathing. These philosophical questions concerning the essence or the nature of human being or of humanity have often been answered with such defining terms as "soul", "spirit" or "self". The human nature, for example, in Greek was named as "psyche" or "pneuma", in Latin as "anima" or "spiritus" and in Sanskrit as "atman". What is highly interesting, and at the same time almost universally forgotten, is that each and every one of these notions that we traditionally translate as "soul", "spirit" or "self" originally meant "breath". In my presentation I take these etymologico-respiratory origins of human nature into a serious consideration as I try to rethink them with the help of phenomenological philosophy. I will use especially as my aid Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of the lived body. Even if Merleau-Ponty's thinking is most famously connected with the phenomenological descriptions of the perceptual life of the body as the primary way of being-in-the-world it also offers us mostly uncharted text fragments concerning the respiratory body. These Merleau-Pontian fragments on breathing, in my opinion, can give us a surprising chance to redefine the essence of human existence in respiratory terms and thus open future possibilities to think in a new way in carnal terms what the ancient cultures might have meant when they intertwined soul, spirit and self with the breath.
Exposure: interdisciplinary perspectives on breath, air and atmospheres