Foucault and Prospects for an Ethics of Self-Cultivation (video interview)

In 2015 in Prato I was interviewed for the ‘Prospects for an Ethics of Self-Cultivation‘ project, about Foucault’s late work and the Foucault’s Last Decade book.

Prospects for an Ethics of Self-Cultivation is a two-year-long research project investigating the revival of ethical self-cultivation in modern European philosophy. The project is organised by research students from the universities of Warwick and Monash and is funded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance.

The central aim of the project is to investigate the ancient conception of ethics as a practice of self-cultivation and its revival in modern European philosophy. While contemporary ethics continues to be dominated by deontological and utilitarian moral theories, this project aims to investigate the strengths and prospects of an ethics directed at the cultivation of self, character, and individual well-being. Although the revival of virtue ethics over the last decades has been well-documented, it remains largely focussed on Aristotelian ethics and often falls back into modern patterns of moral thinking.

The ideals and practices of self-cultivation have been understood in a broader and more inclusive sense in the modern European tradition, which in many ways remains closer to the conception of ethics that dominated the Hellenistic world. Turning to European thinkers, from Montaigne and Spinoza to Nietzsche and Foucault, offers us a new way of thinking about Hellenistic ethics and offers a foundation for a new ‘cultivation of the self’ strand within contemporary ethics.

The primary objective of the project is to investigate and expand the conceptual basis for an ethics of self-cultivation and to evaluate its prospects as a moral theory. The secondary objective is to recast our understanding of European thinkers as important contributors to the modern revival of virtue ethics.

Prof Elden’s latest book can be found at:

Foucault’s Last Decade…

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