Gary P. Radford, “Torture is Putting it Too Strongly, Boredom is Putting it Too Mildly”: The Courage to Tell the Truth in the Late Lectures of Michel Foucault, Human Studies: A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences, First Online: 18 February 2019
The name of Michel Foucault is most commonly associated with words such as power, knowledge, discourse, archaeology, and genealogy. However, in his final public lectures delivered prior to his death in June 1984 at the Collège de France from 1981 to 1984 and at the University of California at Berkeley in 1983, Foucault turned his focus to another word, parrhesia, a Greek term ordinarily translated into English by “candor, frankness; outspokenness or boldness of speech” (“Parrhesia” in Oxford English Dictionary, 2017. http://www.oed.com). The parrhesiastes is the one who uses parrhesia, i.e., the one who speaks the truth. This paper is about Foucault’s choice of parrhesia as the topic of his final lectures and what the articulation of these lectures tells us about truth telling in a specific academic context. It will consider Foucault’s treatment of parrhesia with respect to the specific practice of Foucault’s articulation of this work in the specific formal settings in which it occurred at the Collège de France and the University of California at Berkeley. The objective here is to consider Foucault’s lectures as potential examples of parrhesia and address the question of whether or not is possible to “speak the truth,” in the Greek sense of the term, within the institutional constraints of academic discourse.
Michel Foucault Parrhesia Academic discourse