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Review of Being with the dead by Hans ruin, Stanford University press, 2018

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  1. We will refer to Ruin’s book by the pagination only.

  2. Referring to a transitory period of transformation of the dead body in its skeletal remains before a final burial.

  3. Defined by Ruin as the “polis of and for the dead” (8).

  4. Ruin carries an interesting dialogue with Schütz and his theory of the world of “predecessors”. Schütz thinks of the intentional relation of reciprocity with the dead as one-sided, but he recognizes the influence of the dead through their legacy which reveals history as an “horizon of we-ness”. Ruin deepens his thinking by focusing on the ambiguity of the remains of the dead destabilizing the social behaviour in terms of intentional act.

  5. The ethical tensions and necropolitical stakes tied with the preservation and memorialization of the dead reach in this chapter their climax.

  6. An interesting dialogue could be led between Jean-Luc Nancy, Blanchot and Ruin’s conceptions of the community in relation to death and their positioning in line with Levinas, Derrida and Heidegger.

  7. Referring to the historical determination of being as presence: “presence as substance/ essence/ existence, temporal presence as point of the now […], the self-presence of the subjectivity, the co-presence of the other and of the self, intersubjectivity as the intentional phenomenon of the ego,…” (Derrida 1997, p. 12)

  8. For instance, Ruin speaks of the “wound of time”, but also of the “continued life of the past”. He positions himself against a “metaphysics of survival”, as a “metaphysical reaffirmation of a temporality beyond time” by recognizing the “inner finitude of being with the dead”.

  9. On this point Dorothée Legrand’s reflections are clarifying: phantoms are not between life and death (as sometimes suggested by Ruin when he speaks of a crossing of the living and the dead), but “at the same time present and absent” (what Ruin also recognizes). Phantoms thwart the disjunction between life and death, hold together presence and absence without erasing the “heterogenous” (Legrand 2019, p.175)


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Correspondence to Manon Piette.

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Piette, M. Review of Being with the dead by Hans ruin, Stanford University press, 2018. Phenom Cogn Sci 19, 589–595 (2020).

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