In this workshop we are going to depart by reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s last unfinished poem: “Come you, you last one” and Maurice Blanchot’s very short novel “The Instant of my Death”, which recounts an ecstatic experience of death at the hands of the Nazis at the end of World War II. These will open the space for a discussion of four of the most influential theses on death and dying in twentieth century Western philosophy:
1. Our unconscious, which is to say, the greatest part of our psyche, does not know or believe in death (Freud);
2. Understanding that our death is possible is the condition for any authentic selfhood and historical existence (Heidegger);
3. Our relation to our death is firstly through the other, whose death has a philosophical and ethical priority (Levinas);
4. Our relation to ourselves is a priori posthumous; anticipatory mourning is the fundamental condition for any relation to ourselves and others (Derrida).
Time permitting there will also be consideration of the Zen tradition of writing a haiku at the moment of death.
Peter Banki, Ph.D is the founder and director of the Sydney Festival of Death and Dying. He is a scholar, artist, festival producer and teacher. He publishes and teaches mostly in the fields of continental philosophy from 18th Century to the present. He is also the founder and director of the Sydney Festival of Really Good Sex.
He holds a Ph.D in German Studies from New York University (September, 2009). His book The Forgiveness to Come: The Holocaust and the Hyper-Ethical is forthcoming with Fordham University Press. He is an associate member of the Philosophy Research Initiative at Western Sydney University.