Renaud Barbaras

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Renaud Barbaras
Born 1955 (age 62–63)
Paris, France
Era 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Phenomenology
Main interests
Philosophy of life, anthropology, psychoanalysis, metaphysics, perception

Renaud Barbaras (born in 1955) is a French contemporary philosopher. An École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud alumnus, he is Chair of Contemporary Philosophy in the Sorbonne.


A phenomenologist, his works have primarily focused on the philosophies of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. More recently, his readings of Czech philosopher Jan Patočka have influenced him into conceiving a phenomenology of life and accordingly, a cosmology in which man's place is to be thought anew.

In 1999, Renaud Barbaras begins to build his own philosophy as he is confronted with the apories of the philosophy of the late Merleau-Ponty, the philosopher he worked on for his PhD. Subtitled "an introduction to a phenomenology of perception" in homage to the author of Visible and invisible, Barbaras' Desire and distance addresses the consequences of the Abschattungslehre neither Husserl nor Merleau-Ponty managed to be coherent with: his idea is to be faithful to the principle according to which the fact that we only perceive one side of the things around us doesn't mean we don't perceive them as themselves.[1] This is what he calls not submitting perception to the law of object (or objectivity): the mistake he spots is the prejudice we have to think our way of perceiving as imperfect in comparison to the supposed plenitude of the things themselves.[2] But to be consequent would be to acknowledge the fact that nothing can appear if not to a subject. This doesn't mean the subject is constituting the object, but merely that he is a part of the process of manifestation.[3] To be a part of and not to be constituting: this requires a new definition of subjectivity, which Barbaras tries to give through the conception of a subject based on the natural movement and what he calls desire:[4]

"We began our inquiry on the being of the intramondaneous subject with the relation, phenomenologically attested, between perception and movement. Now, this relation no longer represents any difficulty. It is plainly justified by the fact desire consists in experiencing its own limits. Indeed, since perception is only possible through the limitation of a totality, every perception essentially calls for its overtaking by a movement. Perceiving, in the end, is always passing to something else. And this doesn't only mean that a perception may give way to another perception, but that perception consists in giving way to something else because, since perception is desire, a reality is only to be grasped as something essentially missing."[5]

Selected works[edit]

  • De l'être du phénomène. Sur l'ontologie de Merleau-Ponty, Grenoble, J. Millon, « Krisis », 1991.
English translation by Ted Toadvine and Leonard Lawlor, The Being of the Phenomenon: Merleau-Ponty's Ontology, Indiana University Press, 2004.
  • La Perception. Essai sur le sensible, Paris, Hatier, « Optiques, Philosophie », 1994. Rééd. Paris, Vrin, 2009.
  • Merleau-Ponty, Paris, Ellipses, « Philo-Philosophes », 1997.
  • Le tournant de l'expérience. Recherches sur la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty, Paris, Vrin, « Histoire de la philosophie », 1998.
  • Le désir et la distance. Introduction à une phénoménologie de la perception, Paris, Vrin, « Problèmes et controverses », 1999.
English translation by Paul B. Milan, Desire and Distance: Introduction to a Phenomenology of Perception, Stanford University Press, 2005.
  • Vie et intentionnalité. Recherches phénoménologiques, Paris, Vrin, 2003.
  • Introduction à la philosophie de Husserl, Éditions de la Transparnce, 2004.
  • Le mouvement de l'existence. Études sur la phénoménologie de Jan Patočka, Éditions de la Transparence, 2007.
  • Introduction à une phénoménologie de la vie, Paris, Vrin, 2008.
  • L'ouverture du monde: Lecture de Jan Patočka, Editions de la Transparence, 25 août 2011
  • La vie lacunaire, Paris, Vrin, 19 septembre 2011

Articles translated in English[edit]


  1. ^ Desire and distance, Introduction: The problem of perception
  2. ^ Desire and distance, Chapter 2: Critique of transcendantal phenomenology
  3. ^ Desire and distance, Chapter 3: The three moments of manifestation
  4. ^ Desire and distance, Chapter 5: Desire as essence of subjectivity
  5. ^ Le désir et la distance (1999), Vrin, p. 151.