In the following audio recording, Michel Foucault lectures at UC Berkeley in 1983, a year before his death, on the subject “The Culture of the Self.”
Foucault starts with a story written by Greek satirist Lucian. In the story, Hermotimus, a Greek philosopher, walks mumbling in the street. A friend sees Hermotimus, approaches him, and asks him what he is mumbling about. “I’m trying to remember what I have to tell my master,” Hermotimus tells his friend.
Foucault explains that we learn that Hermotimus, to the point of financial ruin, has been paying for lessons with his master for 20 years. Hermotimus explains that he needs another 20 years of lessons before he can arrive at the end of his training. The point of these lessons, we learn, is for Hermotimus to learn how to best take care of himself.
“I am sure none of you is a modern Hermotimus,” Foucault continues, “but I hold a bet that most of you have met at least one of those guys who now-a-days regularly visit a kind of master who takes their money from them in order to teach them how to take care of themselves.” The crowd laughs. The name of these modern masters, Foucault continues, were called “philosophers” in antiquity.