Rethinking Death Through Bergson’s Phenomenology of Time

Emmanuel Nounours

Sunday, UdeM – 14h30 à 15h15

This lecture intends to introduce ourselves to a rethinking of death through phenomenology of time. The first half will consist of introducing some crucial concepts from the works of Henri Bergson (specifically from his books Time and Free Will and Matter and Memory) as well as some fundamental key points regarding the dichotomy between subjectivity and objectivity. These will be used in the second half of this lecture in order to highlight the problems that arise when we speak of death, namely the problem of using space to describe death, the wrongful analysis of the relationship between memories of the deceased and the experience of them being dead, and so on.
My aim is not to provide the audience a clear cut Bergsonian interpretation of death (i.e.: what does Bergson have to say about death), but rather to introduce the audience to Bergson’s work on time and memory in order to see how we can use it as a series of tools to rethink our conception of death and of dead bodies in a way that is would be in line with a seemingly more accurate conception of our conscious experience of internal time.

Affirming that there is something after death; the Heideggerian view that our being is fundamentally shaped by our necessity to die; anthropological rituals and notions applied to dead people; these are some of the things that we will address together in order to resituate them properly in relation to the problems they arise when we define what death is.

This talk aims to be introductory and bilingual. There is no specific background knowledge required.

Sources and references that I will use for this talk:
Bergson, Henri. Time and Free Will. Dover Press.
Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Dover Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge.
Porée, Jérôme. Exister Vivant.
Much of this lecture is inspired from a paper I wrote that was published in the SoPhiA Review in 2018 available here: