Foucault News

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

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

DOI: 10.1007/s10746-019-09494-7

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. 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

2 thoughts on ““Torture is Putting it Too Strongly, Boredom is Putting it Too Mildly” (2019)

  1. Janet Abbey says:

    Snowden is one of the great parrhesiastes of our time. Manning also. If you consider these two NOW in a genealogical frame you can see how parrhesia has jump changed once again. People confuse truth-telling with just speaking out, ignoring the crucial variable of RISK, risk of life, of death. of………………… Anyway I am glad you are doing this as long ago I said, ” And what is disturbing to me is that my tweets on Foucault’s Panopticon have been picked up concerning Snowden’s truth-telling of NSA surveillance (see a google search on Foucault + Snowden) but no one – NO ONE – is discussing Foucault’s last works at the end of his life on parrhesia, or as Foucault calls it truth-telling, outlined in a series of talks at Berkeley in the early 1980’s collected after his death from transcripts into the Semiotext(e) edition Fearless Speech.
    Is this subject too frightening to touch? Are academics too scared? There are careerist academics who have made their career off Foucault’s coattails. They have written dissertations on his work, books on his life, gotten tenure, prestigious chairs at universities all over the world and not one goddamn one of them has connected Edward Snowden to Foucault’s work on truth-telling or the ancient Greek term parrhesia and the parrhesiastes! This is 2500 years of critical tradition in the West, and only in the West, and no one is connecting these dots?


  2. Janet Abbey says:

    And I forgot ASSANGE.

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