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Death, Consciousness, and Phenomenology

Steven Bindeman


The gist of this paper will be my exploration of the kinds of issues that emerge when existentially-grounded phenomenologists confront the issue of death. After briefly examining the materialist perspective on consciousness, we will concentrate our attention on how the recognition of different levels of consciousness can show us how we can relate to death in different ways. We will proceed from examining the impossibility of the death of the self, to the possibility of transcendence through experiencing the death of the other. We will turn to Merleau-Ponty’s concept of bodily knowledge for help with the matter of how consciousness constitutes the world around itself and enables the possibility of transcendence. We will also examine passages from Nietzsche’s philosophy (with guidance from Heidegger and Blanchot) that cover the transition from viewing time as linear to viewing time as circular, and the transition from understanding our place in the universe in a passive, accepting way which leads inexorably to nihilism, to the possibility of making a decision to relate to our situation in a more dynamic and creative way, by directing our will to the ecstatic experience of the eternal return.

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ISSN: 2153-8212