Foucault

Clare O’Farrell has a quotation from Foucault’s recently translated 1982-83 lecture course, The Government of Self and Others, up on her Foucault site, and a brief discussion here.

It seems to me that the philosophical choice confronting us today is the following. We have to opt either for a critical philosophy which appears as an analytical philosophy of truth in general, or for a critical thought which takes the form of an ontology of ourselves, of present reality. It is this latter form of philosophy which from Hegel to the Frankfurt School, passing through Nietzsche, Max Weber and so on, which has founded a form of reflection to which, of course, I link myself insofar as I can.

Foucault obviously says some similar things elsewhere, sometimes with slightly different names linked to the tradition of which he sees himself as part. It’s a fairly crude split of course, and could be nuanced or reconfigured in various ways. But it’s interesting to see the distinction made between a ‘critical philosophy’ and a ‘critical thought’, on the one hand, and between the ‘analytical philosophy of truth in general’ and an ‘ontology of ourselves, of present reality’, on the other. What’s missing explicitly – but Clare is surely right to stress – is the historical dimension.

As I’ve said before I’m not as fond of the later Foucault as many people, but the 82-83 and 83-84 lectures have some interesting moments. It’s the ones from the early 80s that I’m really looking forward to.

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