Lorenzini, D. (2021). Philosophical Discourse and Ascetic Practice: On Foucault’s Readings of Descartes’ Meditations. Theory, Culture & Society, First published online January 14, 2021
This paper addresses the multiple readings that Foucault offers of Descartes’ Meditations during the whole span of his intellectual career. It thus rejects the (almost) exclusive focus of the literature on the few pages of the History of Madness dedicated to the Meditations and on the so-called Foucault/Derrida debate. First, it reconstructs Foucault’s interpretation of Descartes’ philosophy in a series of unpublished manuscripts written between 1966 and 1968, when Foucault was teaching at the University of Tunis. It then addresses the important shifts that took place in Foucault’s thought at the beginning of the 1970s, which led him to elaborate a new approach to the Meditations in terms of ‘discursive events’. Finally, it argues that those shifts opened up to Foucault the possibility of developing an original reading of Descartes’ philosophy, surprisingly close to his own interest in ancient askēsis and the techniques of the self.