Between Openness and Closure: Helmuth Plessner and the Boundaries of Social Life

Alexander Dobeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article introduces the basic notions of the widely neglected Philosophical Anthropology of Helmuth Plessner. Instead of defining man as a privileged holder of consciousness, Plessner claims that all living organisms can be defined by their specific relation to their physical boundaries. In contrast to other living organisms such as plants and animals, however, the ‘eccentric’ nature of man allows for a comparatively high degree of freedom from the physical environment, which enables him to transcend, objectify, and deconstruct the boundaries of the same. The article concludes by outlining Plessner’s original contribution to contemporary debates in social theory, in particular constructivism and post-humanist studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Classical Sociology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)36-54
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Boundaries
  • Constructivism
  • Deconstructivism
  • Philosophical anthropology
  • Post-humanism

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