Michel Henry’s Transcendental Asexuality


  • Justin Pearl Carlow University

Parole chiave:

Radical Phenomenology, Phenomenology, Sexuality, Gender, Michel Henry


Michel Henry’s radical phenomenology has highlighted the importance of the flesh and eros as central figures of the duality of appearance. For Henry, the paradigmatic manifestation of this duality is the human body. Representationally, the body (le corps) manifests as an object among objects. Affectively, the body manifests as a flesh (la chair) that is always already mine. By prioritizing the affective flesh Henry opens up fertile ground for genuinely novel phenomenological investigations, but it has also resulted in a bracketing of “concrete sexual determinations” from the immanence of the flesh — a category including erogenous zones, sexual organs, hormones, etc. For Henry, the fundamental human person manifests in the mode of transcendental a-sexuality. This bracketing of sexual determinations from the affective flesh opens Henry’s analysis of incarnation and eros to the subtle insinuation of a determinatively masculine “universal subject”, a regression to stereotyped notions of femininity, and a denegration of queer sexualities. In the present investigation, I aim to trace Henry’s thought from his account of the flesh into his analysis of the erotic encounter and, through an engagement with his contemporary French feminist thinkers, expose the limits of his analysis of incarnation and eros.