November 11, 2020

From breath to respiratory philosophy

Lenart Škof

For the ancient cultures of the world living in the natural environment of breathable air was regarded as sacred and known under the denominators such as ruah, aer, psyche, pneuma, prana, qi, ki, ik’, mana, or sila, among others. With the demise of ancient cosmological schemes especially in the West, material and elemental denominators such as ‘psyche’, ‘air’ and ‘breath’ quickly solidified into new metaphysically underpinned concepts of ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ and the fact that our bodies are respiratory bodies was largely forgotten. Western philosophy became a story of masculine domination and the forgetting of the body and its vital breath one of its main features. This contribution will inquire into the forgotten history of breath and breathing within Western philosophy. This will be done by analysing ancient Greek pre-Socratic material philosophy or ‘aer’ and ‘psyche’ as followed by our analysis of the Platonic and post-Platonic anti-respiratory and anti-bodily gestures towards stable and solidified denominators such as ‘spirit’ and ‘ego’. By following some of the most important contributions to what we call respiratory philosophy from Feuerbach and Schelling to Merleau-Ponty and Irigaray, we will excavate and present a hidden genealogy of breath and breathing for the philosophical thinking of our age.


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About Lenart Škof

Lenart Škof is among the leading international scholars in the field of respiratory philosophy. He works as Head of the Institute for Philosophical Studies at the Science and Research Centre and is also Dean at Alma Mater Europaea – Institutum Studiorum Humanitatis (both in Slovenia). Škof is Visiting Professor of Religion at Faculty of Social Sciences (University of Ljubljana). He received Fulbright grant (Stanford University) and Humboldt fellowship for experienced researchers (Max Weber Institute for Advanced Social Sciences, Erfurt) and is a regular member of European Academy of Sciences and Arts (EASA, Salzburg). Lenart Škof   recently co-edited Atmospheres of Breathing (New York: SUNY Press 2018) and also Breathing with Luce Irigaray (Bloomsbury, 2013). Dr Škof is an author of several monographs, related to respiratory thinking, such as Antigone’s Sisters: On the Matrix of Love (SUNY Press, forthcoming in 2021), Ethik des Atems (Freiburg: Herder/Karl Alber, 2017) and Breath of Proximity: Intersubjectivity, Ethics and Peace (Springer, 2015).