Foucault News

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

Herman Westerink (2020) The obligation to truth and the care of the self: Michel Foucault on scientific discipline and on philosophy as spiritual self-practice, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, 81:3, 246-259,
DOI: 10.1080/21692327.2020.1749871

It has often been argued that Foucault’s turn to antique and early Christian care of the self, spiritual self-.practices and truth-telling (parrhesia) results from inquiries into the confession practices and pastoral power structures in the context of a genealogy of the desiring subject. This line of reasoning is in itself not incorrect, but – this article claims – needs to be complemented with an account of Foucault’s philosophical quest for freedom and for conditions, possibilities and modes of thinking and acting differently vis-à-vis the normalizing regimes of power in science and, hence, in philosophy as an academic discipline. In this context a first turn to antique philosophy seen as a ‘way of life’ constructed through ascetic practices can be detected already writings from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although indeed the project of the history of sexuality moved in a direction than Foucault had foreseen in the first volume published in 1976, earlier reflections on the need for free and critical philosophical thought relative to scientific ‘disciplines’ already prelude the later inquiries into care of the self, self-practices and parrhesia as productive for a critical philosophical attitude.

KEYWORDS: Foucault care of the self truth spirituality discipline critique

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