The holding back of decline
Scheler, Patočka, and Ricoeur on death and the afterlife
Jan Patočka and Paul Ricoeur are well known for their accounts of history and the historical understanding of human life. Lesser known are their phenomenological accounts of death and the afterlife. Although their thoughts are available only in fragments, they show a peculiar theoretical richness, as their conceptions of the afterlife are connected to fundamental topics like history, intersubjectivity and memory. In my article, I will attempt to shed light on these fragments, to show how they are embedded in already existing phenomenological theories of the afterlife such as Max Scheler’s essay Tod und Fortleben, and to trace their relation to each other. As I will try to show, Patočka and Ricoeur’s thoughts can offer an alternative formulation of the phenomenology of death that differs from Martin Heidegger’s analysis of death and human mortality in Being and Time. Such an alternative phenomenology of death would not so much focus on the authentic but rather on the intersubjective understanding of death, human mortality, and the afterlife.
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