Foucault News

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

Charles E. Snyder (2021) Foucault and the Historiography of Early Hellenistic Philosophy, Critical Horizons

DOI: 10.1080/14409917.2021.1953749

In his 1981–82 lectures The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Michel Foucault claims that a significant portion of the modern historiography of ancient philosophy tends to discredit the ethical framework of epimeleia heautou (“care of the self”). The thematic analysis of knowledge in the historiography of ancient philosophy overshadows the theme of care of the self. Taking Foucault’s claim as a point of departure, the aim of this paper is twofold. First, the paper provides a genealogy of the early Hellenistic Academy, from Polemo to Arcesilaus. Second, the paper demonstrates that for Arcesilaus, the alleged pioneer of what modern historiography has designated the Academy’s epistemological scepticism, philosophy is not restricted to a continual search for knowledge at a theoretically rarefied level of challenging arguments or discursive statements. This paper situates Arcesilaus’ opposition to early Stoic epistemology within the framework of Academic epimeleia heautou, and defends the thesis that under Arcesilaus the Hellenistic Academy undergoes a shift in the practice of care of the self.

KEYWORDS: Foucault care of the self knowledge Hellenistic philosophy the Academy Socrates

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