Stoicism and its telos: insights from Michel Foucault
(2020) Metaphilosophy, 51 (2-3), pp. 335-354.
This essay concerns the disputed nature of the telos in Stoicism and argues that Michel Foucault’s description of the Stoic telos plausibly constitutes an accurate characterization, despite the frequent criticism it has received and the fact that it apparently neglects the important role of nature or physics in Stoicism. To advance this claim, the essay draws upon a neglected set of observations made by Foucault in The Hermeneutics of the Subject, in which the telos is characterized in terms of the elimination of stultitia, or “indecision.” Once we analyze indecision and its causes from the perspective of physics, we can see that indecision is incompatible with the Stoic telos as standardly described, for example as “life in accord with nature.” It can be concluded that the Foucault’s view is not only plausible but is in fact supported by Stoic physics. The essay concludes with a discussion of some possible objections. © 2020 Metaphilosophy LLC and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
care of the self; consistency; Epictetus; final end; Michel Foucault; Seneca; Stoicism; telos