Foucault’s Ethics

Michel Foucault
Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory

•    Some of Foucault’s aims: philosophical concepts and empirical inquiry
•    Systems of exclusion linked to scientific categorizations
•    xiii: “Foucault interpreted Aristotle as representing the universal and naturalistic pole.  For Aristotle, there is an essential pregiven harmony between sensation, pleasure, knowing, and truth.  Out perceptual apparatus is constituted in such a way that it establishes a link of pleasure and of (above all visual) knowledge, even when such a link serves no direct utilitarian purpose.  The same economy extends all the way up the hierarchy through to the highest form of knowing, contemplation.  As posited in the famous opening lines of the Metaphysics, the desire to know is essential to who we are, and ours ‘by nature.’”
“Birth of Biopolitics”
•    What should be understood by “liberalism”?
•    The question if one is governing too much must also ask, “why must one govern?”
•    Liberalism became a critique of “excessive government” and a return to a technology of a “frugal government” (American)
•    74: “One is not paying enough attention, too many things escape one’s control, too many areas lack regulation and is governing too little.”
“Subjectivity and Truth”
•    Placing the maxim “know oneself” back into explicit/implicit interrogation
•    What should one do with oneself? What work should be carried out by the self? How should one “govern oneself”? => object of actions and subject of the acts?
•    Looking at “care” and the “techniques” of the self would be a way of doing a history of subjectivity
•    Technologies of the self were developed in Hellenistic and Roman periods
•    Medical regimens concern the frequency and moment of sexual acts
•    87: “How was the subject established, at different moments and in different institutional contexts, as a possible, desirable, or even indispensable object of knowledge? How were the experience that one may have of oneself and the knowledge that one forms of oneself organized according to certain schemes?  How were these schemes defined, valorized, recommended, imposed?
“Self Writing”
•    If we write down our thoughts as if telling them to each other, we shall be so much more guarded for the shame of being known
•    What others are to the ascetic, the notebook is to the recluse
•    Hupomnemata ≠ memory support or aids for failed recollections
o    Instead, a material and a framework for exercises to be carried out frequently
o    Not just recall, but use in action
o    Capture the already said => shaping of the self
•    Stoics and Epicureans: refusal of a mental attitude turned toward the future
o    Positive value on the possession of a past one can enjoy without disturbance
•    (Cicero): Correspondence is a certain way of manifesting the self to oneself/others
•    Hup: formation of self without the collected discourse of others
•    Corr: with others and the exchange of soul services
•    Examination of conscience written as an account of oneself
•    209: “Yet one also sees that writing is associated with the exercise of thought in two different ways.  One takes the form of a linear ‘series’: it goes from mediation to the activity of writing and from there to gumnazein, that is, to training and trial in a real situation—a labor of thought, a labor through writing, a labor in reality.  The other is circular: the mediation precedes the notes which enable the rereading which in turn reinitiates the mediation.”
•    211: “By going constantly from book to book, without ever stopping, without returning to the hive now and then with one’s supply of nectar—hence without taking notes or constituting a treasure store of reading—one is liable to retain nothing, to spread oneself across different thoughts, and to forget oneself.  Writing, as a way of gathering in the reading that was done and of collecting one’s thoughts about it, is an exercise of reason that counters the great deficiency of stultitia, which endless reading may favor.”
“Technologies of the Self”
(See class notes)
“The Masked Philosopher”
•    A name makes reading too easy
•    Anonymity is a way to address a potential reader
•    Suffering from inadequate means for thinking about everything


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