Michael Lewis: Helmuth Plessner and the Contemporary Relevance of Philosophical Anthropology

This week we have the pleasure of welcoming Michael Lewis who will be discussing on “Helmuth Plessner and the Contemporary Relevance of Philosophical Anthropology”.

As usual, do not hesitate to join us for this exciting discussion.

The event will take place in room 1G05 (Dalhousie Building) from 4 to 6 pm, on Wednesday the 18th of November.


A politics that is in some sense derived from an anthropology can move in one of at least two ways: to the right and to the left.
The idea of the philosophical anthropologists – common in the history of philosophy, and forming a counter-tradition to the more famous metaphysical definition of man as an entity endowed with reason, language and politics, and hence superior to the other animals – was that man is a lacking animal in need of technological or institutional supplementation, and that if such a surplus as the metaphysical tradition advocated did indeed obtain, it was only on the basis of a natural deficit.
This philosophical anthropology culminated in the context of the extraordinary political situation of the Weimar Republic, and has more often been associated politically with a certain conservatism that proposes the necessity of a strong, even authoritarian state (needed to tame the anarchy of the instinctual chaos of the human animal). But in more recent times, the insights of the philosophical anthropologists have been taken up once again by Paolo Virno, among others, who has demonstrated how a leftist politics may be derived from the very same anthropological foundations.
What, in this debate, both political and philosophical, is the contribution of Helmuth Plessner, whose work, while exerting at times a subterranean influence has remained for most of the century largely in eclipse? A recent and otherwise quite surprising surge in translations of Plessner over the last year or two suggests that his work might be useful in responding to the field of problems that make up the contemporary philosophical (and political) situation. This talk will present some preliminary notes from an initial investigation of Plessner’s work in the context of contemporary continental philosophy.


Biographical note: Michael Lewis is a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle. He is the author of Heidegger and the Place of Ethics (Continuum, 2005), Heidegger Beyond Deconstruction (Continuum, 2007) and Phenomenology: An Introduction (Continuum, 2010). He is also the co-founder of the Journal of Italien Philosophy.

More on Michael Lewis here.