A lecture by Foucault in 1982 at Université de Grenoble, on “Parrēsia” was first published in French in 2012 in the journal Anabases; it is now published in English in Critical Inquiry, translated by Graham Burchell (requires subscription). It is followed by a discussion.
Here are the first two paragraphs:
Thank you very much for inviting me. I am here, as you know, as a supplicant. What I mean is that, until four or five years ago, my field, at any rate the domain of my work, had scarcely anything to do with ancient philosophy; and then, following a number of zigzags, detours, or steps back in time, I began to say to myself that, after all, it was very interesting. So I come to ancient philosophy as part of the work I am doing. One day, when I was asking him some questions, telling him about my problems, Henri Joly was kind enough to say that you might agree to discuss my work with me, in its present imperfect state. It is some material, some references to texts, some indications; what I am going to sketch out to you is therefore incomplete, and, if you were willing, it would be very good of you, first, to call out if you can’t hear me, stop me if you do not understand or if it’s not clear, and then anyway, at the end, tell me what you think.
So, to start with, this is how I came to be asking myself this set of questions. What I had been studying for really quite a long time was the question of the obligation to tell the truth: what is this ethical structure internal to truth-telling, this bond that, beyond necessities having to do with the structure or reference of discourse, means that at a given moment someone is obliged to tell the truth? And I tried to pose this question, or rather I encountered this question of the obligation to tell the truth, of, if you like, the ethical foundation of truth-telling, with regard to truth-telling about oneself. In actual fact it seems to me that I encountered it several times. First of all in medical and psychiatric practice since, from a given moment, which is moreover quite precise and can be pinpointed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, we see the obligation to tell the truth about oneself becoming part of the great ritual of psychiatry. Obviously we come across this problem of truth-telling about oneself in judicial practice and more especially in penal practice. And, finally, I came across it for the third time with regard to, let’s say, problems of sexuality and more precisely of concupiscence and the flesh in Christianity.