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Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 17, 2017

Phenomenology of Animality

James Mensch
Pages 177-200

The Animal and the Divine
The Alterity that I Am

Even a quick look at the history of religions leaves one impressed with how often the animal has been taken as a manifestation of the sacred. Another feature, frequently found, is the emphasis on the transcendence of the divine. Its radical alterity is such that we cannot directly encounter it. What is the alterity, the transcendence that conjoins these features? In this article, I argue that this alterity is that of the unconscious. Two types of impulses spring from it: impulses that we symbolically project as the Eros rooted in our animal, embodied existence and impulses that we project as springing from the divine. The only way that we can form a stable representation of ourselves is through the intertwining of both of them. Such an intertwining can be accounted for by means of Merleau-Ponty’s model of reversibility and mutual disclosure.

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