The central philosophical problem of birth concerns the fact that it is an event necessary for all events. As such, it is the nihilated a priori of itself—in short, it is lost in an abyss of consciousness. The article engages with the thoughts of Sartre, Ricoeur, Henry, Romano, Marion, and Husserl to explain some facets of abyssal birth. It argues that family genealogy may contribute to the philosophical dialogue about birth. Family genealogy is usually practiced with a methodology oriented to epistemology. At times, however, genealogical research may bring the historical ancestral past to presence as a lived experience, thus grounding birth in transgenerational intersubjectivity. To explain this more fully, the article compares this presence affect with similar affects in history, art, and psychoanalysis. The article does not make the birth-as-abyssal problem—as framed by philosophers—vanish, but it questions considering one’s birth exclusively as epistemological. Presence, though closer to ontology than epistemology, is more accurately classified as phenomenological, being as event rather than event as being.
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