Flashback Before the Beginning of Life

A philosophy of natality is sometimes praised as an antidote to a supposedly death-dominated philosophical existentialism, represented above all by the Heideggerian version of this latter which, so it is said, places life in the shadow of our eventual ceasing-to-be. The way to proceed, so it is argued, is rather to conceive of existence from the perspective of its beginning with a birth, instead of thinking of being as a “being-toward-death”. But a philosophy of natality can only become an antidote to the irrevocable necessity of dying if it questions back before the beginning of a person’s life. Such a flashback to before the start of my own existence serves to make it clear to me that it was not necessary for me to come to be at all. If being-toward-death places life in the shadow of no-longer-being-existent, this flashback to before the start of one’s life illuminates one’s own existence as something that, together with my own having-to-die and that of those near and dear to me, did not necessarily have to be. Every “existence as being-toward-death” appears superfluous and contingent. Because every “existence on the way to death” is at the same time an “existence from the beginning of a life” and this “beginning of life” is something that, with the progressive loosening of the grip of tradition on our culture and the increasing autonomy of women, passes more and more unequivocally into the sphere of what we can either do or leave undone – that is to say, into the sphere of responsibility of freely-choosing persons. The ->egofugal “flashback” before the respective beginning of each person’s life can be considered as a core element of a philosophy of non-natality.  

If one understands the philosophy of natality as a thought which “flashes back” before the beginning of a person’s life, the positive character of this thought becomes clear: It is no longer in thrall to death inasmuch as its ethical imperative now runs: do not burden others with having to live a life in the shadow of one’s own having-to-die or of the having-to-die of one’s near and dear ones.

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