Plessner’s Philosophical Anthropology: From the Philosophy of Nature to Politics

  • Michael Lewis
Keywords: Helmuth Plessner, Jacques Lacan, Paolo Virno, Carl Schmitt, philosophical anthropology, man, double body, double aspect, eccentric positionality, philosophy of nature, philosophical biology, philosophical zoology, psychoanalysis, biopolitics, anthropocene, world, environment, world-forming, relativism, historicism, absolutism, interpretation, hermeneutics, open question, incompleteness


One of the most pressing tasks of contemporary thought is to think together the two discourses which have most fully developed the two poles of anthropogenesis, biological life and the symbolic legal order: Lacanian psychoanalysis (often in conjunction with Hegelian and Marxian dialectics) and (anti-dialectical) post-Foucauldian biopolitics. Both, we propose, could be described as forms of “philosophical anthropology.” This essay investigates the work of Helmuth Plessner, to illuminate the fundamental issues that confront any attempt to specify the human being on the basis of a philosophy of nature. It does so in such a way as to pay heed equally to both the natural sciences and the human sciences. This will mark the first step in an attempt to specify the way in which one might bring together psychoanalysis and biopolitics in order to pursue the same task.

Author Biography

Michael Lewis

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
University of Newcastle upon Tyne,
NE1 7RU, United Kingdom


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Additional works by Plessner

Plessner, Helmuth (1935). Das Schicksal des deutschen Geistes im Ausgang seiner bür- gerlichen Epoche. Zurich: Max Niehans.
Plessner, Helmuth (2001). “Wiedergeburt der Form im technischen Zeitalter.” In Poli- tik — Anthropologie — Philosophie: Aufsätze und Vorträge, eds. Salvatore Giammusso and Hans-Ulrich Lessing, 71–86. Munich: Fink.
Plessner, Helmuth (2003). “Die Einheit der Sinne: Grundlinien einer Ästhesiologie des Geistes” [1923]. In Gesammelte Schriften III: Anthropologie der Sinne. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (Extract translated as “The Objectivity of the Senses” by Matthew Bower jectivity_of_the_senses).
Plessner, Helmuth (2011). “Rebirth of Form in the Technical Age” [1932]. Trans. Jonathan Blower. Art in Translation 3.1: 37–51.
Plessner, Helmuth (2014). “Review of Eric Voegelin’s Race and State” [1934]. Trans. Timothy Matthew Hackett with Mario Marino. Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 35.1–2: 381–90.
How to Cite
LewisM. (2020). Plessner’s Philosophical Anthropology: From the Philosophy of Nature to Politics. Stasis, 9(1). Retrieved from