Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Antonio Pele (2018) Human Dignity in the Renaissance? Dignitas Hominis and “Spiritual counter-subjectivity”: a Foucauldian Approach. Philosophy & Social Criticism



The historical making of human dignity is usually understood either as a result of a progressive history of the recognition of the human being’s worthiness or as an upward equalization of ranks. The present article offers a novel and different analysis. It takes the Renaissance idea of dignitas hominis as an object of study and reframes it through Michel Foucault’s insights on ‘archaeology’, power and subjectivity. In doing so, the article demonstrates how dignitas hominis was produced within the so-called Renaissance episteme and as a result of what Foucault defines as the ‘pastorate counter-conducts’. Therefore, the article argues the dignitas hominis narrative aimed to debunk the authority of the ecclesiastical authorities and moulded other ways of ‘being conducted’ and of ‘conducting oneself’ in spiritual life. More radically, this narrative fashioned a ‘spiritual counter-subjectivity’ that removed confession as the main technique producing the Christian subject.

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