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John T. Hamilton “Security”

January 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Hamilton, John T. 2013. Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Part 1 – Preliminary Concerns
Whereas securitas advantageours if it extirpates a troubling cura like fear, anger, or pain, it counts as a decided disadvantage when it abolishes the cura that motivates vigilance or dedicated engagement. Thus, securitas can name a good like assurance, safety, or prevention; or it can designate an evil like apathy complacency, or recklessness. Again, by eradicating care, security leaves us either carefree or careless. (11-12)

Instead of positing a prior, stable subject to be guarded, critical theory claims that the subject comes into being only through security measures. The subject is originally formed by security initiatives rather than being already in place, awaiting subsequent protection. (16)

Hence: security as knowledge (certainty); security’s reliance upon knowledge (surveillance); security’s astonishing prodaction of knowledge in response to its will to know (calculability); and the claim of knowledge which gives security its license to render all aspects of life transparent (totality). All these constitutive elements of our contemporary manifold politics of security excited my suspicion because they comprise a monumental enterprise of power-knowledge whose insatiable maw threatens to consume not only all thought, and not only that relating to the question of the political, but of what it is like to be human. (17 – Michael Dillon, Politics of security, p. 17)

A philological disposition halts the ready slide into all manners of acquiescence. It prevents the headlong rush into those established conventions of truth that are presented as beyond debate and instead raises problems and questions of meaning at the very moment of meaning formation, that is, beefore meaning has become ossified and proffered as second nature. (21)

The desire for maximum security demands that he renounce total security. The prudent concern to save his life necessarily puts his life in danger. Were he to forget his vulnerability, he would run the greater risk of having his security slip into laxity. […] in Kafka’s Burrow, the creature’s chance for survival stands in direct proportion to his „worry“ or „anxiety“ – two good translations for the cura that securitas aimst to dispatch. The removal of all concern may leace the creature untroubled, but it would also make him foolish. In Benjamin’s German, the two (zwei) options – the lack of disturbance and the absence of caution – produce the ambiguity (Zweideutigkeit) that characterizes despair (Verzweiflung); and it is this despair, in turn, that serves as the prerequisite for hope. It responds to a gap in the system that destroys the system’s totality but also maintains its futurity. […] Thus, the animal is secure only as long as he remains insecure. It is the burrow’s lack of complete protection that ensures the inhabitant’s capacity for self-defence. His mortality saves his life. (27-28)

This is the secret of security, like a steak under cellophane: to surround you with a sarcophagus in order to prevent you from dying. (29 – Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, 177)

[…] because of this fundamental solitude, humane care consists not only in the will to protect oneself and others but also in acknowledging one’s stark instability to do so absolutely. (32)

[Carol] Gilligan’s distinction between a „universal morality“ based roughly on Kantian notions of abstract, formal principles and a „contextual morality“ grounded in interdependence and mutual responsibility usefully separates state-sponsored policies of removing care from an individual’s recognition that true security is necessariliy provisional. If state security aims to render citizens carefree, individual security recognizes the perils of surrendering care to an impersonal system. (32-33)

Terrorism is efficacious only when it aims at that for which we care as thinking, feeling subjects. To a certain degree, therefore, both the potential assailant and the potential victim author the dangerous scenario. (33)

Security requires a demonization of the other: the integrity of the inside is rendered coherent by means of violence directed to the menacing outside. (37-38)

This autoimmunity menace, which feeds on a simple but nonetheless confounding logic, need not be restricted to national affairs. On a related, more personal level, there are the paralyzing consequences of constant worry, fear, and anxiety. Both the public preponderance of security warnings and the individual obsession with prevention can be stifling, something that intimidates movement in a world now regarded as frighteningly dangerous. Here, too, security triggers a kind of autoimmune debility, insofar as safety is achieved through a curtailment of activity, which may impede growth, improvement, and general profit, foreclosing opportunities and stifling life. In short, such measures preserve existence at the cost of existence itself. (39)

One must be wary of a state that preserves life by taking life away. In promising deathlessness, total security produces but a stillborn citizenry. (41)

Whereas sovereignty executes its power upon a territory and a discipline exerts power on individual bodies, „security is exercised over a whole population.“ (41)

For Foucault, in contradistinction to the right of the sovereign, security measures do not exercise the power to take away life but rather the power to make life live, which is the general characteristic of biopower. (42)

[….] whereas a model of insurance may mutualize episodic danger across the entire population, secuirty against a total threat cannot be so readily disbursed. As Didier Bigo concisely notes, „Insurance can cope with catastrophe but not with Armageddon.“ (43)

In associating an idea of securing with a notion of self-caring, Foucault essentially overlaps the „elimination of care“ (securare) and the „cultivation of self-care“ (se curare). (43)

The operative premise of all biopolitical paradigms is that the state is a vast organism that requires physiological research, pathological diagnoses, and medicinal, curative prescriptions. Hence, the biologization of the political fades into the politicization of the biological. (45)

The removal of care implicit in such security measures may eradicate concern, but it does not erase the violence of removal itself – a violence that is merely transferred and perpetually enacted. State measures are therefore pharmacological in every sense: both cure and poison. Immunity invariably dovetails into autoimmunity. (45)

Part 2 – Etymologies and Figures
In iconic fashion, the word securitas reflects Cicero’s movement away from the city. […] Cicero’s acceptation of „security“ clearly turns on this sense of elimination. The term further collates ideals familiar from Hellenistic moral philosophy, encompassing Epicurean ataraxia (freedom from disturbances) and Stoic apatheia (freedom from passions). These major terms, constructed with the Greek alpha privative, similarly denote the process of removal lexically marked by the prefix se- and aim toward the realization of the good, happy life or what the Romans would call the „blessed life“ (beata vita). (52-53).

[of Seneca] Perhaps more emphatically than with Cicero, securitas here constitutes an accomplishment. Groundd in a transcendent position above all contingency, the philosopher reaches security and thus touches on the divine sphere, where he is no longer ruffled by disturbances. (53)

The construction of an inviolable self literally depends on proper instruction, on building a subject that can weather all kinds of trouble, foreseeable or not. […] In order to stabilize the self, one must devote vigilance and diligence to internal representations. To secure the self, one must care for the self. That is to say, one can be „free from care“ only if one conscientiously practices philosophy „with care“ (cum cura). (54)

For Cicero and Seneca, therefore, security is not attained simply through withdrawal from the tumult of political life but rather through the careful practice of cultivating a self that continues to be embedded in and constituted by a community. Thus secured, the philosopher – like the enlightened exile from Plato’s cave – may return to the dark and delusional realm of politics. Self-directed stability, achieved through reflection, ultimately prepares one to reenter the fray. […] Self-government prepares one for political governance. (55)

Fully in line with a Stoic tradition, Cicero strives toward a securitas that would quell the impulsiveness of the passions. As later in Seneca, the „care of the self“ is the method by which the emotions are educated, trained to serve the sovereignty of reason. (56)

The self-curatorial struggle is barely concealed by reason’s power. As the middle, third term, the well-balanced thymos of euthymia becomes the earmark of a secure order that strives to maks the simple domination of logos over the body. Violent dualities are quelled by stabilizing triads. (57)

Whereas with Cicero the notion of securitas tends to adhere to the private realm, with the collapse of the Roman Republic the term begins to be employed in a decidedly public fashion. Throughout the imperial period the term came to denote an idea of military or governmental protection – not a condition to be achieved privately, away from the urban center, but rather within the city’s sheltering walls. […] Rather every citizen is worry free thanks to the efforts and success of the governing power. (58)

Self-therapy produced securitas; state therapy engendered salus. A temple to the goddess Salus, high upon one of the summits of the Quirinal, overlooked the city; and the „safety or the security of the people“ – the salus populi – was perceived as a fundamental good among the citizenry. As Cicero famously expressed it: Salus populi suprema les esto („Let the safety of the people be the supreme law,“ De legibus 3.3.8). (59)

A major split, then, in the word’s history is between an inner, psychological sense of composure and an external, physical sense of administered safety. This latter, public meaning should no longer be understood as a translation of Hellenistic ataraxia or apatheia but rahter as an extension of another privative term in Greek, asphaleia, „steadfastness, stability,“ literally: „prevention [a-] from stumbling [sphallein]“. (59)

With the Christianization of the empire, positive connotations of securitas more or less vanished from political and religious usage, save for some formulaic vestiges heard in ealry liturgy. Otherwise, it was mostly in legal contexts where securitas served prominently as an ideal of guarantee in oaths, pledges, and contracts. The later link between securitization and mercantile insurance has its roots in this usage. (64)

The noun „procuration“ – which corresponds to the verb procurare (to take care of, attend to, look after) in the Latin version of Leviathan – makes clear how this office has assumed the curae that are thereby removed from the citizens’ thoughts. The sovereign, therefore, is specifically a procurator, that is, the one who manages concerns on behalf of another. The citizen is securus because the ruler works cum cura. (65)

The greater irony, then, is that precisely by instilling insecurity among the populace, by depriving its subjects of the privation of concern, agencies like the Soviet KGB and the East German Stasi also allow their human subjects to continue to care and therefore to remain human. (67)

Only history, beyond the limits of resemblance and representation, can provide the categories of meaning, a meaning that cannot shed its temporality and therefore its provisionality. It is this Promothean commitment to time that prevents or disrupts any definitive, fixed meaning. Cura, posing as the wily Titan, can secure her creature only in insecurity. (72)

Consigned, then, to time, mankind’s relation to Care becomes clearer. The man possessed by care – homo curans – worries about that which can change, transform, or vanish, including, above all, himself. Again, care is an expression of mankind’s mortality. In his last epistle, Seneca accordingly distinguishes human from divine being: both god and man are endowed with the power of reason, which alone accomplishes the Good; yet, in the case of the immortal god, „nature perfects the Good,“ whereas in the case of mortal man, it is „cura“ that works toward this achievement (ep. 124-14). (72)

In assuming all care, God, the shepherd of men, deprives the human couple of care. Overprotected and fully secure, these beneficiaries of divine gifts lack the lack that drives human endeavor, commitment, and responsibility. This lack of every lack has serious consequences: their security has left them defenseless against the serpent’s alluring speech. It is precisely their carelessness that causes them to fall out of paradise and fall into a life of concern. (74)

To care for others and for oneself represents a responsibility that many would claim to be a fundamental trait of huanity. It is the responsibility that accompanies concrete being in the world: attending to a singular need and formulating how that need should be addressed under the particular circumstances at hand. It exhibits commitment, devotion, and mutual recognition, all of which reveal that care is grounded in temporality, contingency, and the possibility of loss. What burns the heart is a desire to hold on to something that at any moment may be lost. As indicated above, care is generally reserved for that which may one day disappear, including one’s own life: if an object or a person were not subject to time, there would be nothing to care for. We care because we are mortal. (77-78)

The formula (omnes et singulatim) that Foucault recognizes as operative in the concern for security may provide the benefits of subjectivity, but at too great – too fatal – a cost. The concern for removing all concern is here regarded as a death trap. Security grants identity but seals this achievement with a gravestone. Proponents of a human care that does not seek resolution in care’s removal recognize that the subject is sacrificed to the very institutions that make the subject a subject. Their resistance finds expression in constant striving, in remaining at sea, in restlessness, anxiety, and concern. This insistence on a mode of infinite caring does not deny the individual’s mortality. Rather, it is precisely holding on to the singularizing force of one’s own death that saves the individual from a totalizing mortification. Care, no less than security, is a gift. However, whereas the gift of security fills a lack – a lack of identity, subjectivity, being – the gift of care grants the lack itself. (81)

In setting Odysseus on a final journey of wandering, fate demonstrates that the land as well may become a kind of sea. Humans may expect security, but they can only believe in the probability of this expectation and never know it for certain. The land-sea dichotomy, therefore, is but one attempt to secure security, an addempt moreover that may or may not be efficacious. (113)

„There must be freedom from every disturbance of the mind, not only from desire and fear, but also from distress, from both the mind’s pleasure and anger, so that there may be present the tranquility and security of the mind, which bring not only constancy but also dignity.“ The list of disturbing passions is presented as what must be vacated (vacandum est), a privative gesture that underscores the removal expressed by the prefix se-. Cicero is very specific: „Desire and fear, distress and pleasure, and anger“ need to be shunted to the side, if the soul is to enjoy a carefree life. Cicero therefore provides a genealogy of securitas, a brief account, entirely indebted to the Stoics, of how security is accomplished: destructive passions must be identified and summarily pushed away from the soul. (121)

We could provisionally conclude that, for Cicero at Tusculum, the concepts of securitas and its close synonym tranquilitas have less to do with the messy realm of the human, where every opinion remains subject to modification, and relate more to the quasi-divine sphere of the „blessed life“, the beata vita. Here, in this transcendent domain, rigid adherence to philosophical terminology is entirely in order. In the purely theoretical reflections that constitute the Tusculan Disputations, Cicero remarks: „But how can anyone possess that greatly desirable and coveted security – for I now call freedom from distress the security on which the blessed life is based – anyone for whom there is present or can be present a multitude of evils?“ (123-124)

Although anger is an evil pathos or perturbatio, which threatens the individual’s rationality and therefore must be eliminated (vacandum est), it can be domesticated in euthymia, that is, made to negotiate with ration, and thereby safeguard the mind from all pathic disturbancs. Anger thus becomes a cura that assists in the removal of cura, just as the guardians’ violence is trained to quell violence. Police science (Polizeiwissenschaft) as it would develop in the eighteenth century is indeed but a footnote to these proceedings. (127)

Part III – Occupying Security
Fortitude is thus caught in the double bind that will come to characterize the practice of security. As for Aristotle, he attempts to extricate his argument from this potential aporia by revertin to reason or logos. Courage is „the pursuit of logos“; and logos, it would appear, is capable of producing fortitude, not despite but because of the double bind. Virtue (arete) is an achievement precisely because of its difficulty. It is better, then, to understand the Aristotelian mean less as „moderation“ or „mediocrity“, and more as a dynamic tension that negotiates two bad excesses. Provocatively expressed, the surest way to be courageous is to be fearless while being afraid. (148)

As Aristotle continues, courage is grounded in civil recognition. Presumably, a death at sea or a death in illness would fail to be acknowledged, because both fall beyond the limit of civil recognition. It appears that to succumb to sickness would be to suffer reduction to bare animal life, to move from bios to zoe, whereas to perish at sea would be to pass away far from the shores of sommunal existence. One may or may not fear shipwreck or illness, but in either case one has no opportunity to exhibit fortitude, for virtue cannot subsist without one’s humanity or without one’s society. Virtue is virtue recognized. The two major definitions of mankind that Aristotle ha bequeathed to posterity – that man is both a „political animal“ and an „animal possessing logos“ – propels the societal exile as well as the bearer of bare life beyond the realms where recognition of fortitude may be gained. (149)

To understand peace as the mere absence of belligerence is to regard war as an accident. From this perspective, mankind is essentially sociable and benign, and peace is but a return to this original harmony. This line of thought would be Aquinas’s operative premise. In contrast, to interpret peace as a victory over enmity is to recognize mankind as originally savage, ready to do violence unless prevented. This position is commonly associated with Cicero. In the De inventione, for example, Cicero alludes to a primal era „when men used to roam randomly in the fields in the manner of beasts,“ a time of utter lawlessness ruled only by individual cupidity and brute strength, until a „great and wise man“ (magnus … vir et sapiens) eloquently introduced a system of education, with which he could render his fellow man „gentle and civilized“ (mites et mansuetos). (158)

Thus, Security balances the gallows in clear view. Peace may rest upon the armor beneath her pillow once order has been achieved, but she cannot discard it. Likewise, Security must remain tirelessly ready to execute the established laws. More abstractly, when related to both triumphant peace and concord, Security reveals the indispensability of opposition. (158)

No security project can allow itself to be decimated by fear; however, being altogether blind to potential menace would result in sheer recklessness. Lorenzetti’s composed maiden, who stares out at the sinister scene, is the figure of an idea of security as vigilance – as the fearless confrontation with recognized fear, as a disposition that is unafraid precisely by being afraid. (159)

For Fromm, then, the crucial theological shift, motivated by unconscious responses to sociohistorical circumstances, is an abandonment of the „adoptionist doctrine“ (Jesus the man elevated to divinity) and the establishment of the „doctrine of consubstantiality“ (God descended to humanity). In the former case Jesus was portrayed as a violent usurper, whereas in the latter he was characterized by forgiving care. Psychoanalytically, any remaining aggression toward the father could now be directed inward: an individual’s sins, and not the power of the sovereign, were to blame for suffering in this world. The internalization only further reinforced social stability. (166)

This negative view [of Agamben] is certainly valid, yet it does not exclude the converse. Although the exception may thus be used as a nefarious technique for encompassing bare life, it may just as well supply the gap in legalism through which the law can be reanimated, perhaps enabling a transition from „biopower“ to what Roberto Esposito ordains as „biopotentiality“ (biopotenze, as opposed to biopotere) – „a biopolitics that is finally affirmative. No longer over life but of life, on that doesn’t superimpose already constituted (and by now destitute) categories of modern politics on life, but rather inscribes the innovative power of life rethought in all its complexity and articulation in the same politics. The law’s porosity may be the only means for preventing it from stiffening into cold mechanicity. (177)

Descartes’s philosophical quest to secure epistemology with provisional certainty, to excatavate and build a fundamentum inconcussum upon solid ground, however slight, should be understood within the same political context. Starkly expressed, the presupposition – often quite explicit – of the emerging international system of sovereign states, where each should enjoy authority within its territorial limits, is that the state be regarded as a rational subject, as a res cogitans, as a unitary figure set upon the edge of turbulent waters. Upon land, this single entity – be it the individual subject or the sovereign nation – could rest somewhat assured in the face of the conflicts that raged beyond the shored-in limits, where opposing religious doctrines or other, aggressive states were poised to crash in and potentially flood the ground. The „antient Security,“ which in some remote past had presumably been maintained by hierarchical structures of church and empire, would now, following the Great Schism, the fragmentation of principalities, and decades of devastating war, seem achievable only if the sovereign bordrs retained their definition in a more lateral relationship, if unity held out before roaring plurality. The history of every contemporary walled state, the plotting of every fortified barrier, from Israel to Arizona, is traceable to Westphalia, invariably linked to this threat to sovereign unity. (200)

That God may not be merely inscrutable but in fact careless invariably jeapordized any prolonged sense of security, for how could care be removed if there was no ultimate agent to remove it? Voltaire’s Candide (1759) speaks directly to these concerns, both by means of a satirical critique of Leibnizian theory – of „sufficient reason“, of „monads“, and, not least, of „the best of all possible worlds“ – and by elevating each individual to the status of caretaker. The text’s famous conclusion – „il faut cultiver notre jardin“ (we must cultivate our garden) – redefines human security as the condition of being without as well as with care. (207-208)

In maintaining the security (Sicherheit) of bare life, the state is regarded as a biopolitical machine – a cold mechanism or clockwork no longer in need of God. In the place of the mechanical state, Fichte posits the nation, whose purpose exceeds security as safety and protection by allowing transindividual freedom to serve as security (Pfand) through adversity for the reward of posterity. For this reason, the antistatist nature of Fichte’s bold nationalism is no contraditction. All the same, the nation, too, so portrayed, engages in a biopolitical theory, not as a mechanical regime over life but as a living organism in its own right. Fichte’s now notorious promotion of Germanness – the originality and uniqueness of its language and culture, blood and soil – readily assumes the horrific shape of racism, but only with the gradual conflation of state and nation, a conflation that Fichte’s addresses certainly do not discourage. It is at this point, that the state’s promise of security becomes coupled with the ultimately thanatopolitical drive of a nation pathologically intent on preserving its dangerously well-constructed sense of purity. Around 1800, the dfeat at the hands of the Revolutionary Army may be reconfigured as an opportunity, yet this oppostunity, like any chance, cannot master its eventual effects. (237)

Michelet’s inaugurating, fear-provoking view from the shore (La mer vue du rivage) stresses the division into “two worlds”: the one where human life can be sustained and the other where itc annot. To face the sea is to contemplate demise, including one’s own possible absorption into the infinitude of breathlessness. (240)

As a prehistorical zone, the sea is also an origin or maternal source of history—la mer est la mère. The prehistorical is the condition of possibility of the historical. Its formidable power is inescapable. Lionel Gossman’s reflections on Michelet’s naturalist endeavors are particularly evocative in this regard: “History, for Michelet, is … nothing less than the never-ending struggle against the ancien régime of nature, the process by which nature, woman, and the past in their confusing multitude of unstable, constantly varying forms, are progressively transformed from capricious mistresses of human destiny into trained assistants in the creation of a specifically human order.” (241)

Whereas Michelet lamented the dreadful boundlessness of the sea and struggled in vain to secure his and his nation’s identity, Friedrich Nietzsche celebrated beside the watery abyss, gaily dancing at God’s funeral and at the Self’s wake. Although Nietzsche would concede the existence of some instinct of self-preservation, he would view it as one of any number of consequences to a more profound instinct: the notorious “will to power.” This will lies deeper than the individual self and is an expression of life itself: namely, life’s will to expand, to explode any and all determinations, any and all fixed forms, even or especially when life destroys itself in the process. “The wish to preserve oneself is the symptom of a condition of distress, of a limitation of the really fundamental instinct of life, which aims at the expansion of power, and wishing for that [in diesem Willen], frequently risks and even sacrifices self-preservation.” (244-245)

For Nietzsche, the thesis of self-overcoming entails that any measure of self-preservation must be provisional, lest it become a means of devitalizing self-paralysis. The provisionality of preservation wards off complacency, lethargy, and therefore vulnerability. Life is the perpetual striving to avoid being no longer. One may relate this tendency to the capacity for immanent transcendence, to the human potential to detach from the experiential world to which mankind nevertheless belongs. This freedom from natural restrictions is what Max Scheler defined as man’s “world-openness” (Weltoffenheit), a capacity for emancipation from instinctual drives and environmental circumstances. For Scheler, this fundamentally human condition is at once a source of transcendent possibility and pure anxiety. In Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos (Man’s Place in Nature, 1928), Scheler unfolds a “philosophical anthropology” that considers the various travails of modernity—isolation, mechanization, social disintegration, and so forth—as a fundamental lack of orientation, of man not knowing his “position in the cosmos.”35 Yet this problem of localization becomes the source for human ingenuity, the very precondition for human creativity. (255)

Constituted by Being, the essence of technology names yet another challenge by means of which human being becomes a challenge to itself. By pursuing the question concerning tehcnology, thinking expedites Being’s disclosure, a „bringing-forth“ (Hervor-bringen) out of concealment into unconcealment. In the Technology essay, Heidegger focuses on the term Entbergen, a word that literally means „to dig up“, conjuring quasi-romantic scenes of mining. The verb bergen means „to rescue“, „to harbor“, and therefore also „to secure in hiding“. Thus, the „unconcealment“ that is truth (aletheia) is a kind of „de-securing“ (Ent-bergen): letting something burst forth from its fixed or secured hiding into revelation. (263)

While Heidegger views security as impeding thought’s piety, it is elsewhere clear that some idea of security may contribute to authentic concern. In other words, Heidegger appears to inherit the dynamic ambivalence associated with the word’s complex semantic career. On the one hand, there is the cold distance of Lucretian security, which describes the theoretical position that objectifies all experience in a resolutely scientific, calculating, and ultimately nonphilosophical (unthinking) manner. For Heidegger, this metaphysical standpoint dubiously consigns the subject to a position out of the world to which he nonetheless belongs. On the other hand, the „paths of thinking“ (Denkwege) seem to be lined with the courageous asphalt that paves the way and prevents a fall into inauthenticity. (263)

[…] Heidegger is able to apply Augustine’s series of reflections to construct an entire theory of care that will subsequently ground his reshaping of phenomenological inquiry. In brief, cura names for Heidegger the motivating force that compels human life in one of two directions: either toward the „delight“ (delectatio) that defines self-possession in God; or toward the „temptation“ (tentatio) that works against this goal by submerging the self back into the world. If cura leads to delight, the result is „continence“ (continentia), a coming to rest in the One that is God; but if cura leads to temptation, the result is „dispersal“ (defluxus) into the multiplicity of worldly experience. […] The primary philosophical problem with this kind of evaluation is that it gives priority to a condition of security, insofar as Augustine himself explicitly defines delight as „the end of concern“ (finis curae). For Heidegger, security of this nature presupposes a path that inauthentically circumvents the difficulties and troubless of life. (265-266)

The careful attendance to the facticity of existence prevents thinking from evading the conditions of „this very life“, ista vita. In Heidegger’s fundamental reversal, cura counters everything that would have us fall away from our fallenness. Throughout Being and Time, the attraction of tranquility is tantamount to inauthenticity, insofar as it causes us to neglect the fallen condition of our existence. As Heidegger explains, this Verfallenheit is decidedly not a „’fall’ from a purer and higher ’primal state’ [Urstand]“ but rather the state of the only life we have. His critique of security, therefore, is always specifically a critique of securitas as the „removal of care“, which he implicitly distinguishes from asphaleia as the „prevention of falling“ or, more specifically, as the „prevention of falling from our fallenness.“ Evading our constitution in time begins with the translation from Greek to Latin. (267-268)

For Heidegger, Saturn’s judgment is therefore truly an Urteil, a decision that maintains and exacerbates what Friedrich Hölderlin called the „primal split“ or Urtheilung: the converged divergence of corporeal sensibility and spiritual rationality that orients how human existence comes to take place. Care alone holds the polarities together, like a bridge that crosses an otherwies uncrossable river. As a result, any substantial, permanent, transcendent subject – like the one Descartes dreamed of against radical doubt – is shown not to rest on an „unshakeable foundation“ (the fundamentum inconcussum of the Meditations) but rather upon the soft humus into which it inevitably sinks. (269)

Despite the vast, unbridgeable distances between their ideological commitments and philosophical premises, every time one of these thinkers, Schmitt included, betrays to greater or lesser degree an adherence to a certain vitalist, Nietzschean tradition as articulated by Weber, one that protests the gross quantification of human life and the bureaucratization of human relations, in brief, one that restists the reduction of experience to technological calculability. With slight modification, they would all agree with Weber’s assessment of the times as being enslaved to the „might cosmos of the modern economic order,“ which is a mechanism of its own making. (279)

WITHOUT CARE NO ONE can be secure. This is true for security as well as for safety. Yet, the requirement of care does not mean that the concern must fall solely to the one to be secured. Because threats—particlarly those that jeopardize life itself—can often overwhelm the wherewithal of a single subject, it is common to appeal to institutions and agencies that are better equipped and therefore in a more advantageous position to take care of individuals. The secured subject relinquishes the responsibility of care by submitting to a higher authority, by obeying the will of a collective, or simply by trusting technology. A sovereign state, which occupies a privileged place above the populace, can arguably foresee and identify threats better than others. The structure that defines this relation between the one securing and the one secured differs little from that which allows gadgets, devices, and sensors to catch what human senses might miss. In both cases, individual care is relegated to persons or machines that are designed, technologically or ideologically, for accuracy. The provision of security, then, is not only an act of care but also an expression of power. (284)

The state that cares only for itself can never provide security for anyone or for anything other than itself. Its security program exclusively removes the concerns that threaten its own legitimacy and power. Its effects, therefore, are to spread insecurity among the populace. (287)

To be secure requires the capacity to envision as many specific threats as possible. One’s imaginative faculty—the Einbildungskraft—must be fully engaged; it must be capable of picturing what could happen, of internally producing an image (Bild), regardless of likelihood. In order to be safe, one must have recourse to the imagination, one must be able to foresee all potential (not yet actual) events—a delusional enterprise, since the event qua event is unforeseeable. It is precisely this reasoning that motivated the now famous judgment proclaimed by the United States’ 9/11 Commission Report, namely that the governmental intelligence agencies in charge of predicting attacks were to blame for a “failure of the imagination.” (295-296)

A situation of heightened security, in whatever form, stands to be unnerving insofar as it calls to mind the lurking dangers and the potential losses that continue to pose a threat. It serves as a reminder that there are significant risks that may at any point impinge upon our existence or upset our calculations. This disquieting consequence for the subject of security is unavoidable. Modes of protection invariably conjure what is being warded off. (296)

By issuing endless warnings, the state apparatus perpetuates the Hobbesian contract that purchases security with individual freedom. (297)

However, not every warning that Eldagsen cites promotes complacency or immobility. At times, albeit rarely, the “nanny state” (as Eldagsen’s Australian friends characterize their country) expects you to unbuckle yourself and leap into live action. In these special cases, the general advice to avoid or ward off danger is replaced by proactive instructions. To return to the coast off Sydney, we follow other references suggesting that, for the observer, staying on the shore would hardly offer relief. (297)


Nancy Luxon “Ethics and Subjectivity”

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Luxon, Nancy 2008. Ethics and Subjectivity: Practices of Self-Governance in the Late Lectures of Michel Foucault. Political Theory 36(3), 377-402.

Solitary individuals are not to be taken as starting points; the relations that bind them to one another are. In such a context, individuals are quite literally what they do; they achieve constancy and ethical excellence not by attaining an ideal, but by cultivating a “disposition to steadiness” in an uneasy context lacking in absolute values. (380)

Rather than a “knowing subject,” produced in reference to a defined body of knowledge and some external order, the “expressive subject” draws on the structural dynamics of parrhesiastic relationships to give ethopoetic content to her actions. Rather than being urged “dare to know,” individuals are encouraged to “dare to act.” (380)

In its crudest formulation, Foucault’s intellectual trajectory is away from a philosophic investigation of the humanist subject and towards the conditions of political possibility. (382)

While Kant’s relationships to priests, doctors, and books are consistently glossed as ones of dependency, Foucault finds in parrhesia a resource for rethinking the interpretive education offered by the “messy middle” of those personal relationships as-yet unstructured by their endpoint and not predefined by their beginnings. Such relationships potentially offer a context in which the past can be problematized, the future left unforeclosed, and the present always ready-at-hand; they also provide a structure for the reconsideration of ethical obligations and responsibility; and they accomplish both of these tasks without recourse to the private terms of taste. (384)

His goal is to offer not an ethics of absolute values, but a set of expressive practices independent of any appeal to the absolute values offered by nature, religion, tradition, sexual identity, or the human. Foucault’s turn towards expressivity in his late lectures is in many ways a return to his initial concern for those structures that sustain significance, meaning, and expression. (385)

The appeal of parrhesia lies in its consistent focus on the present and the immediate (alternately, le présent, le réel, and l’actualité). Less a problem of epistemological uncertainty, the shakiness addressed by parrhesia is an inability to orient and steady oneself through one’s relations to oneself, to others, and to truth-telling. (387)

Different from confessional technologies, parrhesiastic techniques teach student two capacities: they teach an individual to set his standard of value and then begin the patient labor of moving between this standard and the world-at-hand. Relations to himself and to others provide both a context of immediacy and one for the recognition and sustenance of these values through a community, but without the creation of a universal ethical code to be internalized as conscience. (389)

Motivated by curiosity and resolve rather than desire, parrhesiastic accounts of oneself narrate an interaction not an experience, compose a public site of judgment not a character, and leave postponed the finality of their endings. (390)

Renunciation and desire simply return individuals to the unsteady longing to be other than what they are. Paradoxically, the daily adjustments of parrhesia result in a greater steadiness both in thought and action. Requiring individuals to be otherwise is to unsettle them without educating them to the techniques by which they might regain their balance. As a political program, then, its effects will be fleeting, as individuals are unable to situate themselves in these new ideals or to feel invested in the relations—to themselves, to others, to truth—that sustain it. (397)

This distinction draws attention to a fundamental difference between the activity of ethical self-governance and political governance. Where ethical self-governance is governed by norms of harmony, equilibrium, and steadiness, the norms constituting political governance are different. The daily rough-and-tumble of politics rests on norms of dissent and contestation; in choosing their leaders, debating political programs, and distributing resources, citizens argue and inveigh. Politics relies on the contestation of those collective practices that might facilitate the internalization of cultural norms and values, and unfolds through the contest of claims. Where the art of self-governance takes as its goal a steadiness of disposition and a harmony of words and deeds, modern political governance relies on an artful interruption of cultural attitudes and actions. While parrhesia contributes an ethical steadiness to those who participate in such debates, its personal relationships cannot be scaled so as to characterize politics. Differently from what is often inferred in accounts of a Foucaultian politics of resistance, transgression is not the only possible mode of action, and critique does not automatically entail resistance. Indeed the irreducibility of ethical relationships to a single subjectivity and the insistence on modes of responsiveness would seem to extend to parrhesiastic politics. (398)

Michel Foucault “The Courage of Truth”

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2011. The Courage of the Truth (The Government of Self and Others II) – Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


1st february, first hour

The plea to use „care of the self“ instead of „know thyself“ – because the latter is only one variant of the former (4).

Necessity of the other for the practice of truth-telling about myself (5)

However, even if the role of this other person who is indispensable for telling the truth about oneself is uncertain or, if you like, polyvalent, even if it appears with a number of different aspects and profiles—medical, political, and pedagogical—which mean that it is not always easy to grasp exactly what his role is, even so, whatever his role, status, function, and profile may be, this other has, or rather should have a particular kind of qualification in order to be the real and effective partner of truth- telling about self. And this qualification, unlike the confessor’s or spiritual director’s in Christian culture, is not given by an institution and does not refer to the possession and exercise of spe-cific spiritual powers. Nor is it, as in modern culture, an institutional qualification guaranteeing a psychological, psychiatric, or psychoanalytic knowledge. The qualification required by this uncertain, rather vague, and variable character is a practice, a certain way of speaking which is called, precisely, parrhe–sia (freespokenness). (6)

[…] the notion of parrhesia was first of all and fundamentally a political notion. And this analysis of  parrhesia as a political notion, as a political concept, clearly took me away somewhat from my immediate project: the ancient history of practices of telling the truth about oneself. (8)

With the notion of parrhe–sia, originally rooted in political practice and the problematization of democracy, then later diverging towards the sphere of personal ethics and the formation of the moral subject, with this notion with political roots and its divergence into morality, we have, to put things very schematically […] the possibility of posing the question of the subject and truth from the point of view of the practice of what could be called the government of oneself and others. (8)

And to the extent that this involves the analysis of relations between modes of veridiction, techniques of governmentality, and forms of prac-tice of self, you can see that to depict this kind of research as an attempt to reduce knowledge (savoir) to power, to make it the mask of power in structures, where there is no place for a subject, is purely and simply a caricature. (8-9)

It seems to me that by carrying out this triple theoretical shift—from the theme of acquired knowledge to that of veridiction, from the theme of domina-tion to that of governmentality, and from the theme of the individual to that of the practices of self—we can study the relations between truth, power, and subject without ever reducing each of them to the others. (9)

But the word parrhesia is also employed in a positive sense, and then parrhesia  consists in telling the truth without concealment, reserve, empty manner of speech, or rhetorical ornament which might encode or hide it. “Telling all” is then: telling the truth without hiding any part of it, without hiding it behind anything. (10)

The parrhesiast gives his opinion, he says what he thinks, he personally signs, as it were, the truth he states, he binds himself to this truth, and he is consequently bound to it and by it. (11)

For there to be parrhesia, in speaking the truth one must open up, establish, and confront the risk of offending the other person, of irritating him, of making him angry and provoking him to conduct which may even be extremely violent. So it is the truth subject to risk of violence. (11)

[…] it involves some form of courage, the minimal form of which consists in the parrhesiast taking the risk of breaking and ending the relationship to the other person which was precisely what made his discourse possible. In a way, the parrhesiast always risks undermining that relationship which is the condition of possibility of his discourse. (11)

The connection between the person speaking and what he says is broken in rhetoric, but the effect of rhetoric is to establish a constraining bond between what is said and the person or persons to whom it is said. (13)

Let’s say, very schematically, that the rhetorician is, or at any rate may well be an effective liar who constrains others. The parrhesiast, on the contrary, is the courageous teller of a truth by which he puts himself and his relationship with the other at risk. (14)

The parrhesiast is not a professional. And  parrhe–sia is after all something other than a technique or a skill, although it has techni-cal aspects. Parrhe–sia is not a skill; it is something which is harder to define. It is a stance, a way of being which is akin to a virtue, a mode of action. (14)

[…] what fundamentally characterizes the prophet’s truth- telling, his veridiction, is that the prophet’s posture is one of mediation. The prophet, by definition, does not speak in his own name. He speaks for another voice; his mouth serves as intermediary for a voice which speaks from elsewhere. (15)

The figure and characteristics of the parrhesiast stand in contrast with this role, this characterization of the sage, who basically remains silent, only speaks when he really wants to, and [only] in riddles. The parrhesiast is not someone who is fundamentally reserved. On the contrary, it is his duty, obligation, responsibility, and task to speak, and he has no right to shirk this task. (18)

The parrhesiast does not reveal what is to his interlocutor; he discloses or helps him to recognize what he is. (19)


1st february, second hour

[…] the person who teaches establishes, or at any rate hopes or sometimes wants to establish a bond of shared knowledge, of heritage, of tradition, and possibly also of personal recognition or friendship, between himself and the person or persons who listen to him. Anyway, this truth- telling establishes a filiation in the domain of knowledge. Now we have seen that the parrhesiast, to the contrary, takes a risk. He risks the relationship he has with the person to whom he speaks. (24)

Whereas, in the case of the technician’s truth- telling, teaching ensures the survival of knowledge, the person who practices parrhe-sia risks death. (25)

[…] inasmuch as he takes the risk of provoking war with others, rather than solidifying the traditional bond, like the teacher, by [speaking] in his own name and per-fectly clearly, [unlike the] prophet who speaks in the name of someone else, [inasmuch as] finally [he tells] the truth of what is in the singular form of individuals and situations, and not the truth of being and the nature of things, the parrhesiast brings into play the true discourse of what the Greeks called ethos. (25)

Prophecy, wisdom, teaching, and parrhe-sia are, I think, four modes of veridiction which, [first], involve different personages, second, call for different modes of speech, and third, relate to different domains (fate, being, tekhne, ethos). (25)

However, as distinct as these roles may be, and even if at certain times, and in certain societies or civilizations, you see these four functions taken on, as it were, by very clearly distinct insti-tutions or characters, it is important to note that fundamentally these are not social characters or roles. I insist on this; I would like to stress it: they are essentially modes of veridiction. (26)

In modern society, rev-olutionary discourse, like all prophetic discourse, speaks in the name of someone else, speaks in order to tell of a future which, up to a point, already has the form of fate. The ontological modality of truth- telling, which speaks of the being of things, would no doubt be found in a certain modality of philosophical discourse. The technical modality of truth- telling is organized much more around science than teaching, or at any rate around a complex formed by scientific and research institu-tions and teaching institutions. And the parrhesiastic modality has, I believe, precisely disappeared as such, and we no longer find it except where it is grafted on or underpinned by one of these three modali-ties. Revolutionary discourse plays the role of parrhesiastic discourse when it takes the form of a critique of existing society. Philosophical discourse as analysis, as reflection on human finitude and criticism of everything which may exceed the limits of human finitude, whether in the realm of knowledge or the realm of morality, plays the role of parrhe-sia to some extent. And when scientific discourse is deployed as criticism of prejudices, of existing forms of knowledge, of dominant institutions, of current ways of doing things—and it cannot avoid doingthis, in its very development—it plays this parrhesiastic role. (30)


15 february, first hour

If skillfulness in speech causes forgetfulness of self, then simplicity in speech, speech without affectation or embellishment, straightforwardly true speech, the speech of  parrhesia therefore, will lead us to the truth of ourselves. (75)

And, after Solon’s speech denouncing what is taking place and criticizing his fellow citizens, the Council replies that in fact Solon is going mad (mainesthai). To which Solon retorts: “You will soon know if I am mad … when the truth comes to light.” (77)

It is precisely this practice of parrhe-sia that Socrates does not want to adopt, this role he does not want to play. He does not venture to give advice to the city publicly by appearing before the people. Socrates will not be Solon. (77)

Socrates has not renounced politics out of fear of death and in order to avoid it. […] So the reason Socrates did not want to tell the truth in the form of political veridiction was not the fear of death, it was not Socrates’ personal relation to his own death. […] He would have been unable to establish with others and himself a particu-lar kind of invaluable, useful, and beneficial relationship. (80-81)

The voice which addresses this injunction to Socrates, or rather turns him away from the possibility of speaking in the form of politics, signals the establishment of another truth- telling, converse to political truth- telling, which is that of philosophy: You will not be Solon, you must be Socrates. (81)

With this form of truth- telling or veridiction we are dealing with a certain form of parrhe-sia, if by parrhe-sia we understand the courage of the truth, the courage of truth- telling. We are dealing with a parrhe-sia which, in its foundation and in the way it unfolds, is clearly very different from political parrhe-sia. (85)

The aim of this mission is, of course, to watch over the others continuously, to care for them as if he were their father or brother. But to what end? To encourage them to take care, not of their wealth, reputation, honors, and offices, but of themselves, that is to say, of their reason, of truth, and of their soul (phrone-sis, ale-theia, psukhe). T hey must at tend to them-selves. This definition is crucial. Oneself in the relation of self to self, oneself in this relation of watching over oneself, is [first] defined by phrone-sis,39 that is to say, practical reason, as it were, reason in practice, the reason which enables good decisions to be taken and false opinions to be driven out. Second, oneself is also defined by ale-theia inasmuch as this is what will in fact be the index of phrone-sis, what it is pegged to, what it looks for, and what it obtains; but ale-theia is also Being insofar as we are related to it, precisely in the form of the  psukhe- (t h e  s o u l) . (86)

And in this we now have a parrhe-sia on the axis of ethics. What is at stake in this new form of parrhe-sia is the foundation of e-thos as the principle on the basis of which conduct can be defined as rational conduct in accordance with the very being of the soul. Ze-te-sis, exetasis, epimeleia. Ze-te-sis is the first moment of Socratic verid-iction—the search.  Exetasis is examination of the soul, comparison of the soul, and test of souls. Epimeleia is taking care of oneself. (86)

In short, if you like, Socrates establishes a search, an investigation with regard to the god’s enigmatic words, whose aim is not to await or avoid its realization. He shifts their effects by embedding them in an investigation of truth. Second, he establishes the difference from the speech, the veridiction, the truth- telling of the sage by radically distin-guishing his object. He does not speak of the same thing and his search is not pursued in the same domain. Finally, he establishes a difference in relation to the discourse of teaching by, if you like, reversal. Where

the teacher says: I know, listen to me, Socrates will say: I know nothing, and if I care for you, this is not so as to pass on to you the knowledge you lack, it is so that through understanding that you know nothing you will learn to take care of yourselves. (89)

So you see that in this text from the Apology Socrates basically does two things which I will summarize in the following way: first, he radically distinguishes his own truth- telling from the three other major [modalities of] truth- telling he meets with around him (prophecy, wisdom, teaching); second, as I was explaining, he shows how cour-age is necessary in this form of veridiction, of truth- telling. But this courage is not to be employed on the political stage where this mission cannot in fact be accomplished. This courage of the truth must be exercised in the form of a non-political parrhe-sia, a parrhe-sia which will take place through the test of the soul. It will be an ethical parrhe-sia. (89-90)


15 february, second hour

I think that Socrates’ death founds philosophy, in the reality of Greek thought and therefore in Western history, as a form of veridiction which is not that of prophecy, or wisdom, or tekhne; a form of veridiction peculiar precisely to philosophical discourse, and the courage of which must be exercised untl death as a test of the soul which cannot take place on the political platform. (113-114)


22 february, second hour

Free-spokenness hangs on the style of life. It is not courage in battle that authenticates the possibility of talking about courage. (148)

[…] what will Socratic parrhesia speak about? It will not speak of competence; it will not speak of tekhne. It will speak of something else: of the mode of existence, the mode of life. The mode of life appears as the essential, fundamental correlative of the practice of truth-telling. Telling the truth in the realm of the care of men is to question their mode of life, to put this mode of life to the test and define what there is in it that may be ratified and recognized as good and what on the other hand must be rejected and condemned. In this you can see the organization of the fundamental series linking care, parrhesia (free-spokenness), and the ethical division between good and evil in the realm of bios (existence). […] Its privileged, essential object [is] life and the mode of life. (149)


7 march, second hour

Given that our mental framework, our way of thinking leads us, not without problems, to think of how a statement can be true or false, how a statement can have a truth value, then what meaning can we give to this expression “true life”? (218)

Moreover, this notion of truth, with its four mean-ings, is applied to logos itself, not to logos understood as proposition, as statement, but logos as way of speaking. Logos ale-the-s is not just a set of propositions which turn out to be exact and can take the value of truth. Logos alethes is a way of speaking in which, first, nothing is concealed; in which, second, neither the false, nor opinion, nor appearance is mixed with the true; [third], it is a straight discourse, in line with the rules and the law; and finally, ale-the-s logos is a discourse which remains the same, does not change, or become debased, or distorted, and which can never be vanquished, overturned, or refuted. (220)

This life of the democratic man, sometimes idle and at others busy, sometimes given over to pleasure and at others to politics, and when given over to politics saying anything and everything that comes into his head, this life without unity, this mixed life dedicated to multiplicity is a life without truth. It is unable, Plato says, to give way to logos ale-the-s (true discourse). (223)

Plural, variagated souls traversed by desire, license, and laxity; souls without truth. (224)

[…] the Cynics do not, as it were, change the metal itself of this coin. But they want to modify its effigy and, on the basis of these same principles of the true life—which must be unconcealed, unalloyed, straight,  stable, incorruptible, and happy—, by going to the extreme consequence, without a break, simply by pushing these themes to their extreme consequence, they reveal a life which is precisely the very opposite of what was traditionally recognized as the true life. Taking up the coin again, changing its effigy, and, as it were, making the theme of the true life grimace. Cynicism as the grimace of the true life. (228)


14 march, first hour

The simplest case, political bravery, involved oppos-ing the courage of truth-telling to an opinion, an error. In the case of Socratic irony, it involves introducing a certain form of truth into a knowledge that men do not know they know, a form of truth which will lead them to take care of themselves. With Cynicism, we have a third form of courage of the truth, which is distinct from both political bravery and Socratic irony. Cynic courage of the truth consists in getting people to condemn, reject, despise, and insult the very manifestation of what they accept, or claim to accept at the level of principles. It involves facing up to their anger when presenting them with the image of what they accept and value in thought, and at the same time reject and despise in their life. This is the Cynic scandal. After politi-cal bravery and Socratic irony we have, if you like, Cynic scandal. (233-234)

In the case of Cynic scandal—and this is what seems to me to be important and worth holding on to, isolating—one risks one’s life, not just by telling the truth, and in order to tell it, but by the very way in which one lives. (234)

It is as if philosophy was able to disburden itself of the problem of the true life to the same extent as religion, reli-gious institutions, asceticism, and spirituality took over this problem in an increasingly evident manner from the end of Antiquity down to the modern world. We can take it also that the institutionalization of truth- telling practices in the form of a science (a normed, regulated, established science embodied in institutions) has no doubt been the other major reason for the disappearance of the theme of the true life as a philosophical question, as a problem of the conditions of access to the truth. If scientific practice, scientific institutions, and integration within the scientific consensus are by themselves sufficient to assure access to the truth, then it is clear that the problem of the true life as the necessary basis for the practice of truth- telling disappears. So, there has been confiscation of the problem of the true life in the reli-gious institution, and invalidation of the problem of the true life in the scientific institution. You understand why the question of the true life has continually become worn out, faded, eliminated, and threadbare in Western thought. (235)

The question of the philosophical life has constantly appeared like a shadow of philosophical practice, and increas-ingly pointless. This neglect of the philosophical life has meant that it is now possible for the relation to truth to be validated and manifested in no other form than that of scientific knowledge. (236-237)

There can only be true care of self if the principles one formulates as true principles are at the same time guar-anteed and authenticated by the way one lives. (239)

In a commentator of Aristotle,23 but many other authors refer to it, we find the following interpretation of this  bios kunikos, which seems to have been canonical. First, the kunikos life is a dog’s life in that it is without modesty, shame, and human respect. It is a life which does in public, in front of everyone, what only dogs and animals dare to do, and which men usually hide. The Cynic’s life is a dog’s life in that it is shameless. Second, the Cynic life is a dog’s life because, like the latter, it is indifferent. It is indifferent to whatever may occur, is not attached to anything, is content with what it has, and has no needs other than those it can satisfy immediately. Third, the life of the Cynic is the life of a dog, it received the epithet kunikos because it is, so to speak, a life which barks, a diacritical (diakritikos) life, that is to say, a life which can fight, which barks at enemies, which knows how to distinguish the good from the bad, the true from the false, and masters from enemies. In that sense it is a diakritikos life: a life of discernment which knows how to prove, test, and distinguish. Finally, fourth, the Cynic life is phulaktikos. It is a guard dog’s life, a life which knows how to dedicate itself to saving others and protecting the master’s life. Shameless life, adiaphoros (indifferent) life,  diakritikos life (diacritical, distinguishing, discriminating, and, as it were, barking life), and  phulaktikos (guard’s life, guard dog’s life). (243)

We do not encounter Platonism and the metaphysics of the other world (l’autre monde) on this line. We encounter Cynicism and the theme of an other life (vie autre). These two lines of development—one leading to the other world, and the other to an other life, both starting from the care of self—are clearly divergent, since one give rises to Platonic and Neo- Platonic speculation and Western metaphysics, while the other gives rise to nothing more, in a sense, than Cynic crudeness. But it will revive, as a question which is both central and marginal in relation to philosophical practice, the question of the philosophical and true life as an other life. May not, must not the philosophical life, the true life necessarily be a life which is radically other? (246-247)

In the Gnostic movements, in Christianity, there was the attempt to think an other life (vie autre), the life of severance and ascesis, without common measure with [usual] existence, as the condition for access to the other world (l’autre monde). And it is this relation between an other life and the other world—so profoundly marked within Christian asceticism by the principle that it is an  other life  which leads to the other world—which is radically challenged in Protestant ethics, and by Luther, when access to the other world will be defined by a form of life absolutely conformable to existence in this world here. The formula of Protestantism is, to lead the same life in order to arrive at the other world. It was at that point that Christianity became modern. (247)


14 march, second hour

The life of the Cynic is unconcealed in the sense that it is really, materially, physically public. (253)

There is no privacy, secret, or non- publicity in the Cynic life. We constantly come across this theme afterwards: the Cynic lives in the street, in front of the temples. […] Peregrinus decided to burn himself, but in public, during the Games, so that there was the greatest possible number of spectators at his death. Absolute visibility of the Cynic life. (254)

The Cynic public life will therefore be a life of blatant and entirely visible naturalness, asserting the principle that nature can never be an evil. […] The philosophical life thus dramatized by the Cynics deploys the general theme of non-concealment but frees it from all the conventional prin-ciples. As a result, the philosophical life appears as radically other than all other forms of life. (255)

So poverty leads to the acceptance of slavery. It leads to something which was even more serious than slavery for a Greek or Roman (for after all, slavery could always be one of life’s misfortunes): begging. Begging is poverty pushed to the point of dependence on others, on their good will, on the chance encounter. For the Ancients, holding out one’s hand was the gesture of ignominious poverty, of dependence in its most unbear-able form. Begging was Cynic poverty pushed to the point of voluntary scandal. (260)

For the Cynics, the systematic practice of dishonor is on the contrary a positive conduct with meaning and value. (260)

On the basis of this theme of the independent life, and through its dramatiza-tion in the form of poverty, slavery, begging, adoxia, dishonor, there is a reversal of the classical philosophical theme and the emergence of the true life as other, scandalously other. (262)

There are still a great many things that could be said about this naturalness in the Cynics.* This principle of a straight life which must be indexed to nature, and solely to nature, ends up giving a positive value to animality. And, here again, this is something odd and scandalous in ancient thought. In general terms, and summarizing considerably, we may say that in ancient thought animality played the role of absolute point of differentiation for the human being. It is

by distinguishing itself from animality that the human being asserted and manifested its humanity. Animality was always, more or less, a point of repulsion for the constitution of man as a rational and human being. (264)

In the Cynics, in accordance with the rigorous and systematic appli-cation of the principle of the straight life indexed to nature, animality will play a completely different role. It will be charged with positive value, it will be a model of behavior, a material model in accordance with the idea that the human being must not have as a need what the animal can do without. (265)


28 march, first hour

There are several ways of telling the truth in the Cynic life. The first route, the first way: the relationship to the truth is an immediate relationship of conformity to the truth in conduct, in the body. (309)

But the Cynic life has other responsibilities, other tasks in relation to the truth. The Cynic life must also include precise self- knowledge. The Cynic life is not just the picture of the truth; it is also the work of the truth of self on self. (310)

Measure of self, therefore, but also vigilance over self, appraisal of one’s own abilities and constant watch over the flow of one’s representations, this is what the Cynic must be. But this relationship to the truth of oneself, of what one can do and of the flow of one’s representations, must be coupled also with another relationship, which is that of the supervision of others. (311)

First, in Christian asceticism there is of course a relation to the other world (l’autre monde), and not to the world which is other. […] To that extent, I think we can say that one of the master strokes of Christianity, its philosophical significance, consists in it having linked together the theme of an other life (une vie autre) as true life and the idea of access to the other world (l’autre monde) as access to the truth. [On the one hand], a true life, which is an other life in this world, [on the other] access to the other world as access to the truth and to that which, consequently, founds the truth of that true life which one leads in this world here: it seems to me that this structure is the combination, the meeting point, the junction between an originally Cynic asceticism and an originally Platonic metaphysics. This is very schematic, but it seems to me that there is in this one of the first major differences between Christian and Cynic asceticism. Through histori-cal processes which would obviously need to be examined more closely, Christian asceticism managed to join Platonic metaphysics to that vision, that historical- critical experience of the world. (319)

The second major difference is of a completely different order. This concerns the importance that Christianity, and only Christianity gives to something which is not found in either Cynicism or Platonism. This is the principle of obedience, in the broad sense of the term. Obedience to God conceived of as the master (the despote-s) whose slave, whose servant one is; obedience to His will which has, at the same time, the form of the law; obedience finally to those who represent the despote-s (the lord and master) and who receive an authority from Him to which one must submit completely. So it seems to me that the other point of inflection in this long history of asceticism recounted in counterpoint, facing this relation to the other world (l’autre monde), is the principle of an obedience to the other, in this world, starting from this world, and in order to have access to the true life. There is true life only through obedience to the other, and there is true life only for access to the other world. (320)

The difference between Christian asceticism and other forms of asceticism which may have prepared the way for and preceded it should be situated in this double relation: the relation to the other world to which one will have access thanks to this asceti-cism, and the principle of obedience to the other (obedience to the other in this world, obedience to the other which is at the same time obedience to God and to those who represent him). Thus we see the emergence of a new style of relation to self, a new type of power rela-tions, and a different regime of truth. (320-321)


28 march, second hour

Positive parrhesia in Christianity: First, in its positive value, parrhe-sia appears as a sort of hinge virtue, which characterizes both the attitude of the Christian, of the good Christian, towards men, and his way of being with regard to God. With regard to men, parrhe-sia will be the courage to assert the truth one knows and to which one wishes to bear witness regardless of every danger. (331)

But this parrhe-sia, a relationship to others, is also a virtue with regard to God. Parrhe-sia is not just the courage one demonstrates in the face of persecution in order to convince others, [but also a] courage [which] is confidence in God, and this confidence cannot be separated from one’s courageous stance towards others. (332)

Negative Parrhesia in Christianity: That parrhe-sia that had become a relationship of confidence and open-ness of heart that could bind man to God will disappear, or rather, it will reappear as a confidence which is seen as a fault, a danger, a vice. Parrhe-sia as confidence is foreign to the principle of the fear of God. It is contrary to the necessary feeling of a distance with regard to the world and things of the world. Parrhe-sia appears incompatible with the severe gaze that one must now focus on oneself. The person who can bring about his salvation—that is to say, who fears God, who feels him-self to be a stranger in the world, who keeps a watch on himself, and must constantly keep a watch on himself—cannot have that parrhe-sia, that jubilant confidence by which he was bound to God, borne up to grasp Him in a direct face- to- face encounter. So parrhe-sia now appears as a blameworthy behavior of presumption, familiarity, and arrogant self- confidence. (334)

The second characteristic of this  parrhe-sia, which has now become a fault and a vice, is that not only does one not fear God, but one does not take care of oneself. “We drive the fear of God far from ourselves … by not thinking of death or punishment, by not taking care of ourselves, by not examining our conduct.” You see that parrhe-sia is now negligence with regard to self, whereas previously it was care of self. One does not care about self; one lacks the proper mistrust of self. Third, “living anyhow and associating with anyone.” This time, it is confidence in the world. Familiarity with the world, the habit of liv-ing with others, accepting what they do and say, are all hostile bonds, contrary to the necessary strangeness one should have with regard to the world. This is what characterizes parrhe-sia: non- fear of God, non- mistrust of self, and non- mistrust of the world. It is arrogant confidence. (335-336)

Consequently: elimination of parrhe-sia as arrogance and self- confidence; necessity of respect, whose first form and essential manifestation must be obedience. Where there is obedience there cannot be parrhe-sia. We find again what I was just saying to you, namely that the problem of obedience is at the heart of this rever-sal of the values of parrhe-sia. (336)

Parrhesia generally: The positive conception makes parrhe-sia a confidence in God, a confidence as the element which enables an apos-tle or a martyr to speak the truth with which he has been entrusted. Parrhe-sia is also the confidence one has in God’s love and in how one will be received by Him on the Day of Judgment. Around this concep-tion of parrhe-sia crystallized what could be called the parrhesiastic pole of Christianity, in which the relation to the truth is established in the form of a face- to- face relationship with God and in a human confidence which corresponds to the effusion of divine love. It seems to me that this parrhesiastic pole was a source of what could be called the great mystical tradition of Christianity. (337)

And then you have another, anti- parrhesiastic pole in Christianity, which founds, not the mystical, but the ascetic tradition. Here the rela-tion to the truth can be established only in a relationship of fearful and reverential obedience to God, and in the form of a suspicious decipherment of self, through temptations and trials. This ascetic, anti- parrhesiastic pole without confidence, this pole of mistrust of oneself and fear of God, is no less important than the parrhesiastic pole. I would even say that historically and institutionally it has been much more important, since it was ultimately around this pole that all the pastoral institutions of Christianity developed. (337)

Parrhe-sia, or rather the parrhesiastic game, appears in two aspects:

–  the courage to tell the truth to the person one wants to help and direct in the ethical formation of himself

–  the courage to manifest the truth about oneself, to show oneself as one is, in the face of all opposition. (339)

Michel Foucault “The Government of Self and Others”

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2011. The Government of Self and Others. Lectures at the Collège de France 1982-1983. New York: Palgrave Macmillan: Picador.


12 january 1983, first hour

The first theoretical displacement to be made was this transition, this shift from the development of bodies of knowledge to the analysis of forms of veridiction. The second theoretical displacement to be carried out consists in freeing oneself from any would-be general Theory of Power (with all the capital letters), or from explanations in terms of Domination in general, when analyzing the normativity of behavior, and in trying instead to bring out the history and analysis of procedures and technologies of governmental-ity. Finally, the third displacement consists, I think, in passing from a theory of the subject, on the basis of which one would try to bring out the different modes of being of subjectivity in their historicity, to the analysis of the modalities and techniques of the relation to self, or again to the history of this pragmatics of the subject in its different forms, some examples of which I tried to give you last year. So: analysis of forms of veridiction; analysis of procedures of governmentality; and analysis of the pragmatics of the subject and techniques of the self. These, then, are the three displacements that I have outlined. (41-42)

This is what I would like to say something about this year: truth-telling in procedures of government and the constitution of [an] individual as subject for himself and for others. (42)

[…] one cannot attend to oneself, take care of oneself, without a relationship to another person. And the role of this other is precisely to tell the truth, to tell the whole truth, or at any rate to tell all the truth that is necessary, and to tell it in a cer-tain form which is precisely parresia, which once again is translated as free-spokenness  (franc-parler). (43)

Truth-telling by the other, as an essential component of how he governs us, is one of the essential conditions for us to be able to form the right kind of relationship to ourselves that will give us virtue and happiness. (45)

Well, I think that in a way this is an exemplary scene of parresia: a man stands up to a tyrant and tells him the truth. (50)

Well, in the first place parrēsia is the fact of telling the truth. (51)

The parrhesiast is someone who tells the truth and consequently distinguishes himself from any untruthfulness and flat-tery. Parresiazesthai, that is to say, the truth. But it is clear that it is not just any way of telling the truth. […] Parresia is a particular way of telling the truth. (52)

In parre–sia however, as if it were a veritable anti-irony, the person who tells the truth throws the truth in the face of his interlocutor, a truth which is so violent, so abrupt, and said in such a peremptory and definitive way that the person facing him can only fall silent, or choke with fury, or change to a different register, which in the cas of Dionysius is the attempt to murder Plato. (54)

Let’s say that parresia is a way of telling the truth, and we have to find out what this way of telling the truth is. But this way of telling the truth does not fall within the province of eristic and an art of debate, or of pedagogy and an art of teaching, or of rhetoric and an art of persuasion, or of an art of demonstration. […] It is not found in what could be called discursive strategies. In what, then, does it consist, since it does not consist in the discourse itself and its structures? (55)

[…] there is always parresia when telling the truth takes place in conditions such that the fact of telling the truth, and the fact of having told it, will, may, or must entail costly consequences for those who have told it. In other words, if we want to analyze the nature of parre–sia, I do not think we should look to the internal structure of the discourse, or to the aim which the true discourse seeks to achieve vis-à-vis the interlocutor, but to the speaker, or rather to the risk that truth-telling opens up for the speaker. We should look for parre–sia in the effect that its specific truth-telling may have on the speaker, in the possible backlash on the speaker from the effect it has on the interlocutor. (56)

We have here, if you like […] the point at which subjects willingly undertake to tell the truth, while willingly and explicitly accetping that this truth-telling could cost them their life. (56)


12 january 1983, second hour

However, there is a major and crucial difference. In a performative utterance, the given elements of the situation are such that when the utterance is made, the effect which follows is known and ordered in advance, it is codified, and this is precisely what constitutes the performative character of the utterance. In parresia, on the other hand, whatever the usual, familiar and quasi-institutionalized character of the situation in which it is effectuated, what makes it parresia is that the introduction, the irruption of the true discourse determines an open situation, or rather opens the situation and makes possible effects which are, precisely, not known. Parresia does not produce a codified effect; it opens up an unspecified risk. (62)

[…] we can say that there is parresia when the statement of this truth constitutes an irruptive event opening up an unidefined or poorly defined risk for the subject who speaks. (63)

[…] what makes parresia, is that not only is this difference not possible, but parresia is always a sort of formulation of the truth at two levels. A first level is that of the statement of the truth itself (at this point, as in the performative, on says the thing, and that’s that). The second level of the parrhesiastic act, the parrhesiastic enunciation is the affirmation that in fact one genuinely thinks, judges, and considers the truth on is saying to be genuinely true. (64)

What characterizes a parrhesiastic utterance […] is not the fact that the speaking subject has this or that status. […] What characterizes the parrhesiastic utterance is precisely that, apart from the status and anything that could codify and define the situation, the parrhesiast is someone who emphasizes his own freedom as an individual speaking. (65)

[…] it is not the subject’s social, institutional status that we find at the heart of parresia; it is his courage. (66)

Parresia – and I am summarizing here […] – is therefore a certain way of speaking. More precisely, it is a way of telling the truth. Third, it is a way of telling the truth that lays one open to a risk by the very fact that one tells the truth. Fourth, parresia is a way of opening up this risk linked to truth-telling by, as it were, constituting oneself to the statement of the truth and to the act of stating the truth. Finally, parresia is a way of binding oneself to oneself in the statement of truth, of freely binding oneself to oneself, and in the form of a courageous act. Parresia is the free courage by which one binds oneself in the act of telling the truth. Or again, parresia is the ethics of truth-telling as an action which is risky and free. To that extent, if we give this rather broad and general definition to the word „parresia“ – which was rendered as „free-spokenness“ (franc-parler) when its use was limited to spiritual direction – I think we can proposes to translate it as „veridicity“ (véridicité). (66)

In parresia, in one way or another both the statement and the act of enunciation affect the subject’s mode of being […] I think it is this retroaction – such that the event of the utterance affects the subject’s mode of being, or that, in producing the event of the utterance the subject modifies, or affirms, or anyway determines and clarifies his mode of being insofar as he speaks – that characterizes a type of facts of discourse which are completely different from those dealt with by pragmatics. The analysis of these facts of discourse, which show how the very event of the enunciation may affect the enunciator’s being, is what we could call – removing all the pathos from the word – the „dramatics“ of discourse. (68)

So what I would like to do this year is a history of the discourse of governmentality which would follow the thread of this dramatics of true discourse, which would try to locate some of the major forms of the dramatics of true discourse. (69)

What is this person who arises within society and says: I am telling the truth, and I am telling the truth in the name of the revolution that I am going to make and that we will make together? (70)

First, parresia as a political structure. […] We find parresia, that is to say, the freedom for cirizens to speak, and of course to speak in the political field, understood as much from the abstract point of view (political activity) as very concretely: the right, even of someone who does not hold any particular office and is not a magistrate, to get up and speak in the meeting of the Assembly, tell the truth, or claim and assert that one is telling the truth. This is parresia: a political structure. (71)


19 january, first hour

To have committed an injustice founds the justice of not speaking. Therefore he will not speak. (90)


19 january, second hour

What con-stitutes the field peculiar to parresia is this political risk of a discourse which leaves room free for other discourse and assumes the task, not of bending others to one’s will, but of persuading them. (105)

Parre-sia consists in making use of logos in the polis—logos  in the sense of true, reasonable discourse, discourse which per-suades, and discourse which may confront other discourse and will triumph only through the weight of its truth and the effectiveness of its persuasion—parre-sia consists in making use of this true, reasonable, agonistic discourse, this discourse of debate, in the field of the  polis. And, once again, neither the effective exercise of tyrannical power nor the simple status of citizen can give this parre-sia. (105)

It is simply belonging to the land, autochthony, being rooted in the soil, this historical continuity based on a territory, which alone can give parre-sia. In other words, the question of parre-sia corresponds to an historical problem, to an extremely precise political problem at the time when Euripides writes Ion. (105)


29 january, second hour

It involves a sort of agonistic discourse. For someone who is both the victim of an injustice and completely weak, the only means of combat is a discourse which is agonistic but constructed around this unequal structure. (133)

The discourse, through someone weak, and despite this weakness, takes the risk of reproaching someone powerful for his injustice, is called, precisely, parresia. (133-134)

This was my reason for stressing this, because there is a fundamental ambiguity here. Once again, this ambiguity is not in the word parresia, which is not used here [Ion], but concerns two forms of discourse facing each other, [or rather] profoundly linked to each other: the rational discourse enabling one to govern men and the discourse of the weak reproaching the strong for his injustice. This coupling is very important, because we will find it again as a matrix of political discourse. (135-136)

The discourse of the weak telling of the injustice of the strong is an indispensable condition for the strong to be able to govern in accordance with the discourse of human reason. (136)

Anyway, you can see that we have two ways of confessing the same truth, and in no way is it the role of one to complete the other, since both say exactly the same thing and what was said as imprecation to the gods is just literally repeated. It is clear that what is at stake in this double confession is that, after a mode of truth-telling concerning an injustice one has suffered and against which one protests to the person who inflicted it, it is necessary to bring out another type of confes-sion in which, on the contrary, one takes upon oneself, on one’s own shoulders, both one’s own offense and the misfortune of that offense. And one does not confide it to someone more powerful than oneself and against whom one makes reproaches, but to someone to whom one confesses, someone who guides and helps us. Discourse of imprecation and discourse of confession: these two forms of parre-sia will split apart in future history, and we see, as it were, their matrices here. (139)


2 february, first hour

[…] Ion brings together three practices of truth-telling. One is called parre-sia by Euripides in this text. We may call this, let’s say, political parre-sia, or statutory-political parre-sia: it is the well-known statutory privilege, connected to birth, which is a way of exercising power by what is said and by truth-telling. This is polit-ical parre-sia. Second, we see a second practice, which is connected to a situation of injustice, and which, far from the right exercised by the powerful over his fellow citizens in order to guide them, is instead the cry of the powerless against someone who misuses his own strength. This, which is not [designated as] parre-sia in the text, but will be later, is what could be called judicial  parre-sia. And finally, we see a third practice in the text, a third way of telling the truth which is also not [designated as] parre-sia in the text, but will be later. We could call this moral parre-sia, which consists in confessing the offense which weighs on one’s conscience, and confessing it to someone who can guide us and help us out of our despair or out of feeling at fault. This is moral parre-sia. (154)

For there to be democracy there must be parre-sia; for there to be parre-sia there must be democracy. There is a fundamental circularity, and I would now like to place myself within the framework of this circularity and try to disen-tangle the relationships between parre-sia and democracy, let’s say quite simply: the problem of truth-telling in democracy. (155)

The superiority connected to parresia is a superiority shared with others, but shared in the form of competition, rivalry, conflict, and duel. It is an agonistic structure. Even if it implies a status, I think parresia is connected much less to status than to a dynamic and a combat, a conflict. So, a dynamic and agonistic structure of parresia. (156)

What I think is associated with the game of parre-sia is speaking the truth in order to direct the city, in a position of superiority in which one is perpetually jousting with others. (157)

[…] it seems to me that we find here the root of a problematic of a society’s immanent power relations which, unlike the juridical-institutional system of that society, ensure that it is actually governed. The problems of governmentality in their specificity, in their complex relation to but also independence from politeia, appear and are formulated for the first time around this notion of parresia and the exercise of power through true discourse. (159)


2 february 1983, second hour

… the constitutive rectangle of parresia:

At one corner of the rectangle we could put democracy, understood as the equality accorded to all citizens, and consequently the freedom of each to speak, be in favor or against, and thus to take part in decision making. There will be no parre-sia without this democracy. The second corner of the rectangle is what could be called the game of ascendancy or superiority, that is to say, the problem of those who, speaking in front of and above others, get them to listen, persuade them, direct them, and exercise command over them. So: a pole of democracy and a pole of ascendancy. The third corner of parre-sia: truth-telling. For there tobe parresia, a good parresia, there needs to be not just democracy (formal condition) and ascendancy, which is, if you like, the de facto condition. In addition, ascendancy and speaking must be exercised with reference to a certain truth-telling. The logos, which exercises its power and ascendancy and is delivered by those who exercise ascendancy over the city, must be a discourse of truth. This is the third corner. Finally, the fourth corner: since this exercise of the right to speak in which one tries to persuade through a discourse of truth takes place precisely in a democracy (first corner), it will therefore take the form of a joust, of rivalry, and confrontation, with the consequence that those who want to deliver a discourse of truth must demonstrate courage (this will be the moral corner). Formal condition: democracy. De facto condi-tion: the ascendancy and superiority of some. Truth condition: the need for a rational  logos. And finally, moral condition: courage, courage in the struggle. I think this rectangle—with a constitutional corner, the corner of the political game, the corner of truth, and the corner of courage—is what constitutes parre-sia. (173-174)

Bad Parresia:

1) First, it is characterized by the fact that just anybody can speak. What qualifies someone to speak and gives him ascendancy [is no longer] those old ancestral rights of birth and especially of belong-ing to the soil—of the nobility, but also, as we saw earlier, of the small

peasants—it is no longer belonging to the soil and to a tradition, any more than it is qualities like those of Pericles […] Henceforth, anybody can speak, which is a constitutional right. But just anybody will in fact speak and will in fact exercise ascendancy by speaking. Even those who have recently become citizens, as was the case with Cleophon, may exercise ascendancy in this way. It will be the worst therefore, and not the best. In this way ascendancy is perverted. (182-183)

2) Second, this bad parrhesiast who arrives from anywhere does not say what he does because it represents his opinion, or because he thinks that his opinion is true, or because he is intelligent enough for his opinion to correspond in fact to the truth and what is best for the city. He speaks only because and to the extent that what he says represents the pre-vailing opinion, which is that of the majority. In other words, instead of ascendancy being exercised through the specific difference of true dis-course, the bad ascendancy of anybody is achieved through conformity to what anybody may say and think. (183)

3) Finally, the third characteristic of this bad parre-sia is that the armature of this false true discourse is not the singular courage of the person who, like Pericles, is able to turn against the people and reproach them in turn. Instead of this cour-age, we find individuals who seek only one thing: to ensure their own safety and their own success by pleasing their listeners, by flattering their feelings and opinions. The bad parre-sia which drives out the good is then, if you like, “everybody,” “anybody,” saying anything, provided it is well received by anybody, that is to say, everybody. Such is the mechanism of bad parre-sia, which is basically the elimination of the dis-tinctive difference of truth-telling in the game of democracy. (183)

Not everybody can tell the truth just because everybody may speak. True discourse introduces a difference or rather is linked, both in its conditions and in its effects, to a difference: only a few can tell the truth. And once only a few can tell the truth once this truth-telling has emerged into the field of democracy, a difference is produced which is that of the ascendancy exercised by some over others. True discourse and the emergence of true discourse underpins the process of governmentality. If democracy can be gov-erned, it is because there is a true discourse. (183-184)

And then you see a new paradox now appears. The first paradox was: there can only be true discourse through democracy, but true dis-course introduces something completely different and irreducible to the egalitarian structure of democracy. […] And this is the second paradox: there is no democracy without true discourse, for without true dis-course it would perish; but the death of true discourse, the possibility of its death or of its reduction to silence is inscribed in democracy. No true discourse without democracy, but true discourse introduces differences into democracy. No democracy without true discourse, but democracy threatens the very existence of true discourse. (184)


9 february, first hour

Four great problems of ancient political thought, which we find already formulated in Plato:

1) First, is there a regime, an organization, a politeia of the city which is such that the indexation of this regime to the truth can do without this always dangerous game of parre-sia? Or again: can all the problems of the relations between truth and the organization of the city be set-tled once and for all? Is it possible for the city to have, once and for all, a clear, definite, fundamental, and as it were immobile relationship to the truth? This is, roughly speaking, the problem of the ideal city. (195)

2) Which is better? For the life of the city to be indexed properly to the truth, is it better that all those who can, want to, or think they are able speak, be permitted to do so in a democracy? […] I think that there is a crucial feature here on which we should focus, namely that the great political debate between democracy and monarchy is not just a debate between democracy and autocratic power. It is a confrontation between two couples: the couple of a democracy and certain people who stand up to tell the truth (consequently, if you like: democracy and orator, democ-racy and the citizen who exercises his right to speak), and the other couple of the Prince and his advisor. (195-196)

3) Third, you see the appearance of the problem of the formation and conduct of souls, which is indispensable to politics. The problem appears clearly, of course, when it is a matter of the Prince: how should one act on the Prince’s soul, how should one advise him? But even before the advisor, how should one form the Prince’s soul so that it may be open to the true discourse that must be delivered to him constantly while he is exercising power? The same question arises with regard to democracy: how will it be possible to form those citizens who will have to take responsibility for speaking and for guiding the others? This, then, is the question of pedagogy. (196)

4) And finally, the fourth great problem is this: who is capable of tak-ing up this parresia, this indispensable game of truth in political life—which we may imagine in the very foundation of the city, in an ideal constitution, as well as in the game of democracy with orators, or of the Prince with his advisor, with their comparable respective merits—who is capable of taking up this truth-telling necessary for conducting citizens’ souls or the Prince’s soul? Who is capable of being the artisan of parresia? What mode of knowledge, or what tekhne-, what theory or practice, what body of knowledge, but also what exercise, what mathesis and aske-sis will make it possible to take up this parre-sia? Is it rhetoric or philosophy? (196)

This is the double negative aspect of parre-sia in democracy thus founded: each has his own identity and each can lead the crowd where he wants. Whereas the game of the good parre-sia is precisely to introduce the differentiation of true discourse which will make possible the proper direction of the city through the exercise of ascendancy, here, on the contrary, there is a structure of non-differentiation which leads to the worst possible guidance of the city. (200)

It is this absence of true discourse which will constitute the fundamental characteristic of the democratic soul, just as the bad game of parresia in the city produces that anarchy peculiar to bad democracy. (200)

Cyrus gave “full freedom of speech and honors to whoever was capable of advising him.” We have here the idea of what could be called the parrhesiastic pact. The sovereign must act so that he opens up the space within which his counselor’s truth-telling can be formulated and can appear, and in opening up this freedom he under-takes not to punish his counselor and deal ruthlessly with him. (203)

Even in an ideal city with perfect order and the best trained magistrates whose functions are exercised exactly as they should be, if citizens are to conduct themselves properly in the order of the city and actually form that coherent prganization the city needs in order to survive, then they will still need a supplementary discourse of truth, and someone will be needed to address them in complete frankness, using the language of reason and truth to persuade them. What we see desig-nated in this text is this supplementary parrhesiast as the moral guide of individuals, as the moral guide of individuals in their totality, a kind of high moral functionary of the city. And here again you see parre-sia in its complexity or its double articulation: parresia is in actual fact what the city needs in order to be governed, but it is also what must act on citizens’ souls so that they are the citizens they should be, even in the well governed city. (205-206)


9 february, second hour

[…] parre-sia is not restricted to operating only within the framework of democracy; a parrhesiastic problem, if you like, a problem of  parresia arises under any form of government. (212)

One thing that I think should be understood is that the resort to philosophy in this text, the desired coincidence between the practice of philosophy and the exercise of power, is presented by Plato—and some importance should be attached to this—as the consequence of an impossibility, that is to say, of the fact that the previously customary political game of parre-sia (of truth-telling) is no longer possible in the field of democracy or in the Athenian city. The place of truth-telling is no longer solely the field of politics, which means that henceforth the parre-sia that we saw formulated fairly clearly in Euripides, for example, or afterwards in Isocrates, the  parre-sia  that should characterize the action of some citizens in relation to other citizens, is no longer to be given by citizenship and is no longer the exercise of moral or social ascendancy of some over others. Parre-sia [. . .], truth-telling in the political realm can only be founded on philosophy. It is not just that this parre-sia, this truth-telling must refer to an external philosophical dis-course, but truth-telling in the field of politics can well and truly only be philosophical truth-telling. Philosophical truth-telling and polit-ical truth-telling must be the same, inasmuch as none of the ways of conducting politics witnessed by Plato can assure the true functioning of this parre-sia. This dangerous and perilous game I have been talking about is no longer possible. I think the absolute right of philosophy over political discourse is clearly central in this conception of Plato. (217)

It is by taking part directly, through parre-sia, in the formation, maintenance, and exercise of an art of gov-erning that the philosopher will be not merely  logos in the political realm, but really logos and ergon, in accordance with the ideal of Greek rationality. In reality, logos is complete only if it can lead to ergon and organize it according to the necessary principles of rationality. (219)


16 february, first hour

Rhetoric is a means of persuading people of what they are already persuaded. The test of philosophy, on the contrary, the test of philosophy’s reality, is not its political effectiveness; it is the fact that it enters the politi-cal field in its specific difference and has its own particular game in relation to politics. (229)

For a long time it was thought, and it is still thought, that basically the reality of philosophy is being able to tell the truth about truth, the truth of truth. But it seems to me that, and anyway this is what is indicated in Plato’s text, there is a completely different way of marking or defining what philosophy’s reality may be, the reality of philosophical veridiction, whether what this veridiction says be true or false. This reality is marked by the fact that philosophy is the activity which consists in speaking the truth, in practicing veridiction in relation to power. (229-230)

The philosopher who speaks with-out being listened to, or again who speaks under the threat of death, basically only speaks hot air and pointlessly. If he wants his discourse to be a real discourse, a discourse of reality, if he wants his philosophi-cal veridiction really to belong to the realm of reality, his philosopher’s discourse must be listened to, understood, and accepted by those to whom it is addressed. Philosophy does not exist in reality solely by virtue of there being a philosopher to formulate it. Philosophy exists in reality, finds its reality, only if, corresponding to the philosopher who delivers his discourse, there is an expectation and listening of the per-son who wants to be persuaded by philosophy. (235)

This is the circle of listening: philosophy can only address itself to those who want to listen. A discourse which only protested, challenged, shouted, and raged against power and tyranny would not be philosophy. No more would a violent discourse, which forces its way into the city and spreads threats and death around it, find its philo-sophical reality. If the philosopher is not listened to, and to such an extent that he is threatened with death, or again if the philosopher is violent, and to such an extent that his discourse brings death to others, then in both cases philosophy cannot find its reality; it fails the test of reality. The first test of reality of philosophical discourse will be the listening it meets with. (235)

Earlier, based on the previous passage, I referred to the circle of listening, which consists in philosophical truth-telling, phil-osophical veridiction presupposing the other’s willingness to listen. Here we have another, completely different circle, which is no longer the circle of the other, but the circle of oneself. In fact it is a matter of the reality of philosophy being found, recognized, and effectuated only in the practice of philosophy. The reality of philosophy is its practice. More exactly, and this is the second conclusion to be drawn, the reality of philosophy is not its practice as the practice of logos. That is to say, the reality of philosophy will not be its practice as discourse, or even as dialogue. It will be the practice of philosophy as “practices,” in the plural; the practice of philosophy in its practices, its exercises. And the third, obviously essential conclusion concerns what these exercises are directed towards, what is at stake in them. Well, quite simply, it is the subject itself. That is to say, it is in the relation to self, in the work of self on self, in the work on oneself, in this mode of activity of self on self that philosophy’s reality will actually be demonstrated and attested. Philosophy finds its reality in the practice of philosophy understood as the set of practices through which the subject has a relationship to itself, elaborates itself, and works on itself. The reality of  philosophy is this work of self on self. (242)


16 february, second hour

[…] what is philosophy when rather than as merely logos, one wants to think of it as ergon? Well, it seems to me that we can make out here what could be called a third circle. We have had the circle of listening: for philosophy really to be real, for it to find its reality, it must be a discourse which is listened to. Second, for phi-losophy to find its reality it must be practice (both in the singular and plural, a practice and practices); the reality of philosophy is found in its practices. And now finally, we have what could be called the circle of knowledge, namely, that philosophical knowledge, specifically philo-sophical knowledge, is in fact completely different from the four other forms of knowledge. But nevertheless, the reality of this  knowledge can be arrived at only through the unremitting and continuous practice of the other modes of knowledge. (251-252)

First, you see that if in fact the refusal of writing should be given the meaning I am suggesting, then in no way should we see in this Platonic refusal of writing something like the advent of a logocentrism in Western philosophy. You can see that it is more complicated than that. For the refusal of writing here, throughout this text from Letter VII, is not at all presented in terms of an opposition between writing and the meaning and valorization of logos. On the contrary, what this letter takes up is pre-cisely the theme of the insufficiency of logos. And the refusal of writing is set out as a refusal of a knowledge arrived at through onoma (t h e  word),  logos (the definition, the interplay of substantives and verbs, etcetera). It is all of this, writing and logos together, which is well and truly rejected in this letter. Writing is not rejected because it is opposed to logos. On the contrary, it is because they are on the same side, and because writing is, in its way, like a derivative and secondary form of logos. And on the other hand, this refusal of writing, of writing and of the logos associated with it, or of the logos to which writing is subor-dinated, is not therefore made in the name of logos itself (rejected like writing and even before writing), but in the name something positive, in the name of tribe-, of exercise, effort, work, in the name of a certain painstaking mode of relationship of self to self. What we should deci-pher in this refusal of writing is not at all the advent of a logocentrism, but the advent of something else entirely. It is the advent of philosophy, of a philosophy whose very reality would be the practice of self on self. It is in fact something like the Western subject which is at stake in this simultaneous and conjoint refusal of writing and of logos. (253-254)

[…] the reality of philosophy is found in the relationship of self to self. And it is indeed in setting out the problem of the gov-ernment of self and the government of others that philosophy, here, in this text, formulates its ergon, at once its task and its reality. (255)


23 february, first hour

Plato therefore recognizes and lays claim to  parre-sia as the activ-ity that underpins his activity as counselor. As a counselor he is that parre-sia, that is to say he employs parre-sia with all the characteristics we have recognized: he commits himself, it is his own discourse, it is his own opinion, it takes account both of general principles and a particular conjuncture; it is addressed to people as a general principle, but it persuades them individually. All of this gives a discourse whose truth must hold to and be proven by the fact that it will become reality. Philosophical discourse will get from political reality the guarantee that it is not just logos, not just words given in a dream, but that it really has to do with the ergon, with what constitutes reality. We have here a set of elements which match up with what I tried to tell you concerning the parrhesiast’s function. (279)


23 february, second hour

After all, it is for politics itself to know and define the best ways of exercising power. It is not for philosophy to tell the truth about this. But philosophy has to tell the truth—we will leave it there for the moment, if you like, and we will try to specify later—not about power, but in relation to power, in contact with, in a sort of vis-à-vis or intersection with power. It is not for philosophy to tell power what to do, but it has to exist as truth-telling in a certain relation to political action; nothing more, nothing less. (286)

Let’s say, again very schemati-cally, that in the case of the Cynics we have a mode of connection of philosophical truth-telling to political action which takes place in the form of exteriority, challenge, and derision, whereas in Plato we have a connection of philosophical truth-telling to [political] practice which is rather one of intersection, pedagogy, and the identification of the philosophizing subject and the subject exercising power. (287)

Or again: philosophical discourse in its truth, in the game it neces-sarily plays with politics in order to find its truth, does not have to plan what political action should be. It does not tell the truth of politi-cal action, it does not tell the truth for political action, it tells the truth in relation to political action, in relation to the practice of politics, in relation to the political personage. And this is what I call a recurrent, permanent, and fundamental feature of the  relationship of philosophy to politics. (288)

Philosophy and politics must exist in a relation, in a correlation; they must never coincide. (289)

What, for Plato, is this practice of philosophy? Before all else, essentially and fundamentally, this practice of philosophy is a way for the individual to constitute himself as a subject on a certain mode of being. The mode of being of the philosophizing subject should constitute the mode of being of the subject exercising power. (294)


2 march, first hour

Parrhesia (Euripides, Thucydides):

1) […] parre-sia was linked to the working of democracy. You recall that Ion needed parre-sia for him to be able to return to Athens and establish the fundamental Athenian political right. On the other hand, Pericles employed his parre-sia—Thucydides emphasized this—within the general working rules of democracy. Parre-sia founds democracy and democracy is the site of  parre-sia. First of all then, there is this circular bond of parre-sia/democracy, each belonging to the other. (300)

2) […] parre-sia presupposed then a precise institutional structure, that of ise-goria, that is to say, the right to speak actually given to all citizens by the law, by the constitution, by the very form of the politeia. You recall that Ion did not want to return to Athens as a bastard, since he would not have had the right, the equal right—of citizens only, but of every citizen—to speak. And Pericles only speaks after all the other citizens, or anyway all those who wished to speak, had actually exercised their rights. So Pericles’ right exists within this game of ise-goria. This was the second point. (300)

3) […] even if parre-sia functions within this egalitar-ian field of ise-goria, it presupposes, it implies a form of political ascen-dancy exercised by some over others. If Ion wanted to have parre-sia, it was not just so he could be a citizen like others; it was so he could figure in the pro-ton (the front rank) of citizens. And if Pericles spoke, and if this speech had the effects that it had, Thucydides reminds us that this is because Pericles was the foremost citizen of Athens. (300)

4) Finally, you recall that parresia took place within an agonistic field where it constantly met with the danger involved in practicing true speech in the political field. Ion referred to the people’s envy, the envy of the majority, of the most numerous towards those who exercise their ascendancy. He also referred to jealousy of rivals who cannot tolerate one of them advancing and assuming ascendancy over the others.

Parrhesia (Plato, Xenophon, Isocrates)

1) First, there is a generalization of the notion in the sense that  parre-sia, the obligation and risk of telling the truth in the political field, no longer appeared to be linked merely and solely to the working of democracy. Parre-sia finds its place, or rather has to make room for itself in different regimes, which may be democratic, autocratic, oligarchic, or monarchical regimes. Sovereigns, like the people, need parre-sia. […] So there is a generalization of the political field of parre-sia, or let’s say even more schematically that parre-sia, truth-telling, appears as a necessary and universal function in the field of politics, whatever the  politeia. Politics, in whatever way it is practiced, by the people, by some, or by one, needs this parre-sia. This is the first shift. (301)

2) The second shift is, if you like, the development of a certain ambiv-alence, a certain ambiguity concerning the value of  parre-sia, as if the immediate and uniformly positive value of the notion in Euripides, or in the portrayal of Pericles by Thucydides, starts to become blurred. The functioning of parresia appears, in fact, to be accompanied by difficulties, and this is true for both democratic and autocratic governments. In the first place, by allowing anyone who wants to speak to do so, parre-sia makes it possible for the worst as well as the best to speak. Second, if telling the truth in parre-sia is a risk, if there really is danger in speaking the truth before the people or the sovereign, if the people and the sov-ereign are unable to moderate themselves sufficiently not to frighten those who wish to tell the truth, if they are too threatening to those who claim to tell the truth, if they become excessively angry* and are incapable of moderation towards parrhesiasts who appear before them, then everyone will keep quiet because everyone will be afraid. This will be the law of silence, silence before the people or before the sover-eign. Or rather, this silence will be filled by a discourse, but a distorted discourse, the mime-sis (imitation), the bad mime-sis of parre-sia. (301-302)

3) The third transformation we saw emerging in these texts from the beginning of the fourth century is, roughly, the splitting of parre-sia, its unevenness […] Instead of being just a view which is given to the city in order that it govern itself properly, parre-sia now appears as an activ-ity which consists in addressing the souls of those who have to govern so that they govern themselves properly and so that in this way the city too is governed properly. I think this splitting or, if you like, this shift of the target, of the objective of parre-sia—from the government of the city, which it addressed directly, to the government of self in order to govern others—marks an important shift in the history of this notion of parre-sia. And it will make parre-sia both a political notion—raising the problem of how to make room for this truth-telling within a govern-ment, be it democratic or monarchical—and at the same time a philosophical-moral problem. (303)

4) Finally, the fourth important modification in the problematization of parresia is the following. What were Ion or Pericles when they appeared as parrhesiasts in relation to the city? They were citizens, and they were the leading citizens. Now that parre-sia has to be exercised in any regime, whatever it may be, and inasmuch as it has to be practiced in a dangerous, tangled relationship with its double (flattery), conse-quently raising the problem of distinguishing what is true from what is illusory, when, in short, parre-sia does not just involve giving advice to the people on what decision to take but means having to guide the souls of those who govern, who then will be capable of parre-sia? Who will possess the ability of parre-sia, who possibly will have the monopoly of parre-sia? And it is at this point, precisely at the turn of the fourth and fifth centuries, that the great division in Greek culture, or any-way Athenian culture, between rhetoric and philosophy begins to be marked out, a division whose effects will continue to be seen for eight centuries. (303-304)

A discourse which claims to tell the truth should not be assessed merely by measuring it against a history of knowledge which would permit us to determine whether or not it tells the truth. These discourses of truth deserve to be analyzed differently than according to the measure and from the point of view of a history of ideologies which would ask them why they speak falsely, failing to telling the truth. I think a history of the ontologies of true discourse or of discourses of truth, a history of the ontologies of veridiction would be a history in which one would pose at least three questions. First: What is the mode of being peculiar to this or that discourse, as distinct from others, when it introduces a certain specific game of truth into reality? Second question: What is the mode of being that this discourse of veridiction confers on the reality it talks about, through the game of truth it practices? Third question: What is the mode of being that this discourse of veridiction imposes on the subject who employs it, such that this subject can play this specific game of truth properly? (309-310)

This implies that every discourse, and particularly every discourse of truth, every veridiction, be considered essentially as a practice. Second, it implies that all truth be understood in terms

of a game of veridiction. And it implies that every ontology, lastly, be analyzed as a fiction. Which means again: the history of thought must always be the history of singular inventions. Or again: if we want to distinguish the history of thought from a history of knowl-edge undertaken in terms of an index of truth, and if we want to distinguish it from a history of ideologies undertaken by reference to a criterion of reality, then this history of thought—this anyway is what I would like to do—should be conceived of as a history of ontologies which would refer to a principle of freedom in which freedom is not defined as a right to be free, but as a capacity for free action. (310)

What concerns philosophy is not politics, it is not even justice and injustice in the city, but justice and injustice inasmuch as they are committed by someone who is an acting subject; acting as a citizen, or as a subject, or possibly as a sovereign. Philosophy’s question is not the question of politics; it is the question of the subject in politics. (319)


2 march, second hour

Socrates emphasizes this: If the truth could simply be known by the speaker before he speaks, as the prior condition, as it were, [of his discourse] (which is what Phaedrus suggests), then in that cas his discourse will not be a discourse of truth. Knowledge of the truth, for Socrates, is not a precondition of the good practice of discourse. (330)


9 march, first hour

Again, it should be under-stood that the daughter of  parre-sia is certainly not the whole of phi-losophy, philosophy since its origin, philosophy in all its aspects, but philosophy understood as the free courage of telling the truth and, in telling the truth courageously, taking ascendancy over others so as to conduct them properly in a game in which the parrhesiast himself must accept a risk, even that of death. Philosophy thus defined as the free courage of telling the truth so as to take ascendancy over others and conduct them properly, even at the risk of death, is, I think, the daugh-ter of parre-sia. Anyway, it seems to me that this is the form in which philosophical practice asserts itself throughout Antiquity. (342)

Ancient philosophy as parresia:

1) First, the fact that ancient philosophy is a form of life should be interpreted in the general framework of this parrhesiastic function which ran through, permeated, and sustained it. What is a philosophical life? […] To live philosophically is to show the truth through the e-thos (the way one lives), the way one reacts (to a situation, a scene, when confronted with a particular situation), and obviously the doctrine one teaches; it is to show the truth in all these aspects and through these three vehicles (e-thos of the scene, kairos of the situation, and doctrine). (343-344)

2) Second, it seems to me that throughout its history in ancient culture philosophy is also parre-sia not only because it is life, but also because, in one way or another, it never ceased to address those who govern. (344)

3) I think that ancient philosophy is also a parre-sia in a third way, in the sense that it is a perpetual interpellation addressed, collectively or individually, to persons, private individuals, and which may take the form of the great Cynic and Stoic type of preaching in the theater, the assemblies, at the games, or in the forum, and which may be the interpellation of an individual or of a crowd. There is also that rather curious structure of the ancient philosophical schools, which function quite differently from medieval schools (the monastic school or medi-eval university), and obviously from our schools. (345)

Throughout Antiquity philosophy is really lived as the free questioning of men’s conduct by a truth-telling which accepts the risk of danger to itself. (346)

Basically, shortly after Epictetus, six or seven centuries after Socrates, I think the different forms of Christian teaching will take over from this parrhesiastic function and gradually divest it of philosophy. In the first place, new relations to Scripture and Revelation, new structures of authority within the Church, and a new definition of asceticism, no longer defined on the basis of self control, but on renunciation of the world, will, I believe, profoundly change the system of truth-telling. For a number of centuries it will no longer be philosophy that plays the role of parre-sia. What I would suggest is that after moving from politics to this philosophical focal point, philosophy’s great parrhesiastic func-tion was in fact transferred a second time from the philosophical focal point to what we can call the Christian pastoral. (348)

Once again, what is modern philosophy if we read it as a history of veridiction in its parresiastic form? It is a practice which tests reality in its relationship to politics. It is a practice which finds its function of truth in the criticism of illusion, deception, trickery, and flattery. And finally it is a practice which finds [the object of its] exercise* in the transformation of the subject by himself and of the subject by the other. Philosophy as exteriority with regard to a politics which constitutes its test of reality, philosophy as critique of a domain of illusion which challenges it to constitute itself as true discourse, and philosophy as ascesis, that is to say, as constitution of the subject by himself, seem to me to constitute the mode of being of modern philoso-phy, or maybe that which, in the mode of being of modern philosophy, takes up the mode of being of ancient philosophy. (353-354)

It is not for philosophy to say what should be done in politics. It has to exist in a permanent and res-tive exteriority with regard to politics, and it is in this that it is real. Secondly, it is not for philosophy to divide the true and the false in the domain of science. It has to constantly practice its criticism with regard to deception, trickery, and illusion, and it is in this that it plays the dialectical game of its own truth. Finally, third, it is not for philosophy to disalienate the subject. It has to define the forms in which the rela-tionship to self may possibly be transformed. I think that philosophy as ascesis, as critique, and as restive exteriority to politics is the mode of being of modern philosophy. It was, at any rate, the mode of being of ancient philosophy. (354)

Stuart J. Murray “Care and the self”

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Murray, Stuart J. 2007. Care and the self: biotechnology, reproduction, and the good life. – Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2:6. available:

To “examine” one’s life today is to submit to medical knowledge and techniques, to evaluations, and to normalizing judge-ments. It is to be governed by so-called experts, and to be understood in and through recent genomic and molecular vocabularies of biomedicine.

Medical discourse thus informs one manner in which the self or subject is constituted – and silently comes effec-tively to constitute itself as a subject. In this sense, medi-cine operates as a “technology of the self,” a nexus of social, political, and historical practices and beliefs that provide the very terms of the self and its self-understand-ing.

What Foucault famously called the “clinical gaze” is fast being sup-planted by the “molecular gaze” [4]; biopolitics – a poli-tics concerned with the life of the population – is being supplanted by “molecular politics” [5].

I argue that human identity is fast becoming a mat-ter of genomics, the identity of the self collapsed into its genetic identity.

[…] two sharply contrasting models of “care.” The first I call “self-care,” a model that has dominated public health policy in recent years. “Self-care” relies on a model of selfhood that is drawn from the tradition of lib-eral humanism: the Enlightened, knowing self, the self that is conceived as the source of its own agency, autono-mous, free, and guided by conceptual reason. This is the self that medical ethics typically presumes as founda-tional: rational, autonomous, and freely able to consent. […] In contradistinction, I shall pro-pose a second model of care that I borrow from Foucault’s ethics – “care of the self.” I hope to show how the Foucaultian “care of the self” is incommensurate with the care that we find in the “self-care” paradigm.

[…] while for the Greeks, the question was how to live and live well, for Rome – and for us – life is no longer the “ethical substance” or the fundamental question, but selfhood is that substance.

Today, medicine has become part of the  problem  of the self, and this becomes even more obvious in our genomic era of medi-cine: who or what am I if I am first and foremost a genetic self; what ethico-political responsibilities do I have to myself, to others, and to my offspring within this para-digm; and what subjective agency is left to me if the sov-ereignty of the Kantian “I” is displaced from a rational, autonomous self onto a sovereign genetic code that has the first and last word on who I am, what I am, and on who and what I shall become? These are the new problems of the self in a genocentric age.

Responsibility is conceived in economic or entrepreneurial terms [5,15,19]: I, as a patient, am treated foremost as a client who employs expert-providers in my own health care initiatives, to improve my health, to work on my self as if I were not the subject of my own well-being but an object in need of repair or enhancement. Here, the self-self relation is explicitly technologized, instrumentalized. The self relates to itself as through a knowledge economy – I am respon-sible to “know” my self biomedically, to take decisions and perform “best practice” actions in the project of my own well-being […]

This emphasis on the autonomous individual effec-tively privatizes and depoliticizes what are properly social and political effects, embodied historical effects whose operational power is summarily masked and disavowed by liberalism.

I prefer to imagine the “care of the self” as a self-self relation that is inventive and open, as a self that questions the norms and constraints in and by which that self is said to be a self in the first place.

So to repeat, the spiritual relation the self has to itself will inform epistemological truths and falsities, not the other way around – epistemology is not the founda-tion of the self, as it has been since Descartes. This turns modern Western philosophy and politics upside down.

So we can see that care is a relation that is directed both within and without. It is an ethical relation because it has everything to do with one’s ethos, with the way one lives one’s life and conducts oneself with respect to oneself, to others, and to the world in general. It is about the good life, not the good self.

The self relates to itself non-foundationally, non-substantially, and in this respect, we might be justified to invoke Socra-tes when he speaks of the “soul.” The soul or “psyche” is dynamic and without substance; it is neither body nor mind, as these terms are traditionally understood; it is nei-ther cognitive nor conceptual. Instead, we might call it a rhetorical device for plotting the relation between the self and itself, which includes the relation between the self and the other whose love and wisdom helps to bring that self into a caring proximity with itself.

[…] I fear that increased choice in, say, the genetic marketplace may prove detrimental to truly progressive social and political projects. Ultimately, a proliferation of choices in the genetic marketplace will not unequivocally result in greater social and political diversity, but may instead result in more stringent norms, less diversity, and greater intolerance of all forms of difference, genetic and otherwise.

But by the “care of the self,” Foucault helps us to depart from this normativity. For him, care is a way of being-in-the-world, an attitude, a chiasmatic rela-tion that constitutes the individual and the institution as two separate poles whose positions rely on dynamic power relations and norms that ought to be critiqued. Sev-enhuijsen and Tronto erroneously start by presuming the givenness of individual selves and institutions responsible for our care; this is the model of “self-care” as I have defined it. In contradistinction, Foucault does not pre-sume such a givenness.

Bernard Stiegler “Care”

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Stiegler, Bernard 2012. Care: Within the Limits of Capitalism, Economizing Means Taking Care. – Cohen, Tom (ed). Telemorphosis. Theory in the Ero of Climate Change, Volume 1. Open Humanities Press. 104-120.

[…] transindividuation is the way psychic individuations are meta-stabilized as collective individuation: transindividuation is the operation of the fully effective socialization of the psychic. With the social networks, the question of technologies of attention becomes manifestly and explicitly the question of technologies of tran-sindividuation. (106)

What Husserl calls primary retention is this operation consisting of re-taining a word in another […] it is the operation consisting in retaining a word which however is no longer present, the beginning of the sentence having been pronounced and in this respect already past, and yet still present in the sense that is thus elaborated as discourse.

We must distinguish the operation we are calling primary retention from secondary retention. The latter is a memory: something that be-longs to a past having passed by (it is thus a former primary retention), whereas the primary retention still belongs to the present, to a passing present: it is the passage itself, per se, and in this respect the direction of the present—its sense in the sense of direction as well. Now, the second-ary memory is also what permits us to select possibilities from the stock of primary retentions: primary retention is a primary selection whose cri-teria are furnished by the secondary retentions. (108)

[…] that which allows such a discourse to be repeated, for example in the form of a recording in MP3 format, is a tertiary retention with the same status as the text I am now reading for you, which allows me to repeat a discourse that I conceived elsewhere, and at another previous time: this is what Plato called a hypomnesic pharmakon. […] Such a device allows, to be more precise, the control of retentional and protentional hook-ups in view of producing attentional effects. (109)

Tertiary retentions are therefore mnemotechnical forms of the exte-riorization of psychic life constituting organized traces into retentional devices […] that character-ize the systems of care, as therapeutic systems whose retentional devices are the pharmacological basis. (109)

[…] where the libido has been destroyed, and where the drives it contained, as Pandora’s box en-closing every evil, henceforth are at the helm of beings devoid of atten-tion, and incapable of taking care of their world. Libidinal energy is essentially sustainable, except when it decomposes into drive-driven energy, which is on the contrary destructive of its ob-jects. The drive is an energy, but an essentially destructive one, for the drive consumes its object, which is to say it consummates it. (113)

If consummation is that which destroys its object, libido is to the con-trary that which, as desire and not as drive, that, as the sublimation in-trinsic to desire,  takes care of its object. This is why the question of the third limit of capitalism is not that of the relinquishment of fossil fuels but rather the relinquishment of a drive-driven economy and the recon-stitution of a libidinal economy, that is, a sustainable one, given that this energy increases with the frequentation of its objects. (114)

An organization based on consumption, and constituted by its oppo-sition to production, is dangerous not only because it produces excess quantities of carbon dioxide, but because it destroys minds. The oppo-sition of production and consumption has as its consequence that both producers and consumers are proletarianized by the loss of their knowl-edge: they are reduced to an economy of subsistence, and deprived of an economy of their existence—they are deprived of libidinal economy, that is, of desire. This is why the fundamental question opened by the combi-nation of the three limits of capitalism is the overcoming of this opposition and of the proletarinarization it engenders structurally. (115)

Perhaps this deplenishment [of fossil fuels] is finally a kind of stroke of luck: the opportunity to un-derstand that the true question of energy is not that one, that the energy of subsistence is of interest only insofar as it contributes to an energy of existence—and is such in its capacity to project what I call the plane of consistencies. Now this is the true stake of what is today called, in an am-biguous expression, ascendant innovation. (116)

Ascendant innovation is a structural break with the organization of social relations in the industrial world based on the oppositional couple production/consumption. It is founded on motivations oriented toward consistencies, that is, toward objects of what the Greeks and the Romans called skholè and otium, which are very specific objects of atten-tion: the objects of knowledge (know-how, art of living, the disposition to theory, that is, to contemplation). (116-117)

The IP technology is on the contrary what allows the proliferation of new circuits of transindividuation, and that’s why it is massively invested in by social practices that were neither anticipat-ed nor programmed by any industrial or commercial strategy. It is thus that this technico-relational milieu tends to reconstitute associated and dialogical milieus (that is, where all those who participate in this milieu contribute to its individuation) by the unfolding of technologies of tran-sindividuation. (119)

This is not to say that these technologies cannot serve the cause of the short-circuiting of transindividuation. All attentional technologies (and these digital technologies of transindividuation belong to the group of at-tentional technologies) are pharmacological to the strict extent that, as technologies of the formation of attention, they can be reversed and upturned into technologies of the deformation of this attention, and short-circuit this attention, that is, exclude it from the process of transindividu-ation and signification: they can always produce dissociation. (119)

Foucault “Teadmine, võim, subjekt”

Foucault, Michel 2011. Teadmine, võim, subjekt. Valik räägitust ja kirjutatust. Tallinn: Varrak


Mis on valgustus? 366-390

[…] kui Kanti järgi on küsimus selles, et teada, millistest piiridest peab tunnetus nende ületamise nimel lahti ütlema, siis tänapäeva kriitika küsimus peab minu arvates naasma positiivse küsimuseasetuse juurde: milline on ainulaadse, sattumusliku, meelevaldsetest piirangutest sündinu osa kõiges selles, mis on meile antud universaalse, paratamatu ja kohustuslikuna. […] kriitikat ei rakendata enam formaalsete, universaalset väärtust omavate struktuuride otsimiseks, vaid ajaloolise uurimusena sündmustest, mis on viinud meie kujunemisele, võimaldanud meil ennast ära tunda oma tegude, mõtete, sõnade subjektina. (384-385)

[…] see on eesmärgilt genealoogiline ja meetodilt arheoloogiline. Arheoloogiline […] selles mõttes, et see ei taotle mitte kõigi teadmiste või kogu võimaliku moraalse tegevuse universaalsete struktuuride eritlemist, vaid nende diskursuste käsitlemist, mis liigendavad meie mõtteid, sõnu ja tegusid kui ajaloolisi sündmusi. Ja genealoogiline on see kriitika selles mõttes, et ei tuleta mitte meie praeguse olemise võrmist seda, mida meil on võimatu teha või teada, vaid loob sattumuslikkusest, mis on teinud meist need, kes me oleme, esile võimaluse mitte enam olla, teha või mõelda seda, mida me oleme, teeme või mõtleme. (385)

Meie endi kriitilisele ontoloogiale omast filosoofilist ethos’t iseloomustaksin ma seega kui ületatavate piiride ajaloolis-praktilist proovilepanekut, niisiis kui meie endi tööd iseenda kallal niivõrd, kuivõrd me oleme vabad. (386)

Homogeenseks referentsiväljaks ei tule võtta mitte pildid, mida inimesed endast ise annavad, ega ka tingimused, mis neid nende endi teadmata määratlevad. Vaid see, mida nad teevad ja kuidas nad seda teevad. See tähendab, need ratsionaalsuse vormid, mis organiseerivad tegemise viise (see, mida võiks nimetada nende tehniliseks aspektiks), ja vabadus, millega nad neis praktilistes süsteemides tegutsevad, reageerides teiste tegevusele ja teatud piires mängureegleid modifitseerides (see, mida võiks nimetada nende toimingute strateegiliseks küljeks). (388)

Eetika genealoogiast: poolelioleva töö ülevaade. 310-354

Mina tahan näidata, et kreeka põhiprobleem ei olnud enese techne, vaid elu techne. See oli techne tou biou – kuidas elada. (321)

Idee bios’est kui esteetilise kunstiteose materjalist on midagi, mis mind kütkestab. Samuti idee, et eetika võib olla väga tugev eksistentsistruktuur, ilma et tal oleks mingit seost juriidilisega per se, autoritaarse süsteemi ega distsiplinaarse struktuuriga. (321-322)

Arvan, et meil oleks vaja vabaneda ideest, nagu oleks eetika ja muude sotsiaalsete, majanduslike või poliitiliste struktuuride vahel analüütiline või paratamatu seos. (323)

Ideest, et meie ise ei ole meile ette antud, tuleneb minu meelest ainult üks praktiline järeldus: meil tuleb luua iseennast nagu kunstiteost. (325)

Klassikalises enesehooles oli teadmistel teistsugune roll. Teadusliku teadmise ja epimeleia heautou vahel on väga huvitavaid asju, mida analüüsida. See, kes pidas enda eest hoolt, pidi kõigi nende asjade seast, mida teaduslik teadmine võimaldab tundma õppida, valima üksnes neid, mis olid temaga seotud ja elu jaoks olulised. (337)

Taheti muuta oma elu teatavat laadi teadmise objektiks, teha sellest techne – kunst. Meie ühiskonnas pole peaaegu mitte midagi järel ideest, et peamine kunstitöö, mille eest meil tuleb hoolitseda, see tähtsaim ala, kus esteetilisi väärtusi rakendada, on meie ise, meie elu, meie eksistents. (339-340)

Niisiis, kui soovite, on hypomnemata ja enesekultuuri tähelepanuväärseks kokkujooksmispunktiks just see punkt, kus enesekultuur seab endale eesmärgiks täiusliku enesevalitsemise – teatava püsiva poliitlise suhte ise ja enese vahel. (342)

Tähtis pole mitte jälitada kirjeldamatut, paljastada varjatut ega öelda ütlematajäänut, vaid vastupidi, koguda juba öeldut, korjata kokku see, mida kuuldi või loeti, ja kõike seda eesmärgil, mis pole midagi vähemat kui iseenese moodustamine. (344)

Niisiis pole küllalt sellest, kui öelda, et subjekt moodustub sümboolses süsteemis. Subjekt ei moodustu mitte lihtsalt sümbolite mängus. Ta moodustub reaalsetes praktikates – ajalooliselt analüüsitavates praktikates. On olemas enesemoodustuse tehnoloogia, mis kasutab sümboolsed süsteemid ära ja läheb neist risti üle. (349)

Alates hetkest, mil kristlus enesekultuuri üle võttis, pandi see teataval viisil tööle pastoraalse võimu teostamiseks, nõnda et epimeleia heautou’st sai tegelikult epimeleia ton allon – teistehool –, mis oli pastori töö. Kuivõrd aga individuaalne lunastus – vähemasti teataval määral – pidi käima läbi pastoraalse institutsiooni, mille objektiks on hingede hooldamine, kadus endises mõttes ka klassikaline enesehool, see tähendab, ta integreeriti ja kaotas suure osa oma autonoomiast. (350-351)

Suhe enesega ei pea enam olema askeetlik, selleks et jõuda suhteni tõega. Tõe taipamiseks piisab sellest, kui suhe enesega paljastab mulle ilmse tõe selle kohta, mida ma enese jaoks näen. Võin seega olla ebamoraalne ja tunnetada tõde. […] Enne Descartes’i polnud võimalik olla ebapuhas ja ebamoraalne ning tunnetada tõde. Alates Descartes’ist on otsene silmanähtavus piisav. Pärast Descartes’i on meil mitteaskeetlik tunnetuse subjekt. See muutus teeb võimalikuks tänapäeva teaduse institutsionaliseerumise. (353)

Tõde ja võim. 228-262

Seda tahangi ma nimetada genealoogiaks, see tähendab niisuguseks ajaloo uurimise vormiks, mis suudab seletada teadmiste, diskursuste, objektivaldkondade jne. ülesehitamist, ilma et ta seejuures peaks viitama subjektile, mis on sündmuste välja suhtes kas transtsendentne või siis kulgeb tühja samasusena läbi terve ajaloo käigu. (239)

See, mis võimu tugevaks teeb, mis ta vastuvõetavaks muudab, on lihtne tõsiasi, et ta kunagi ei rõhu peale paljalt ei-ütleva jõuna, vaid et ta tegelikult on kõikeläbiv, et ta loob asju, tekitab naudingut, vormib teadmist, toodab diskursust; teda peab hoopis rohkem võtma produktiivse võrgustikuna, mis läheb läbi terve sotsiaalse kehami, kui negatiivse instantsina, mille funktsiooniks on ärakeelamine. (242)

Sellistes ühiskondades nagu meie oma iseloomustavad tõe poliitilist ökonoomiat viis ajalooliselt olulist tunnusjoont: tõde on keskendatud teadusliku diskursuse vormi ja nende institutsioonide ümber, mis seda toodavad; ta on allutatud pidevale majanduslikule ja poliitilisele takkakihutamisele (tõde vajab ni majanduslik tootmine kui poliitiline võim); ta on, erisugustes vormides, tohutu levitamistöö ja tarbimise objektiks  […]; teda toodetakse ja antakse edasi mõnede suurte poliitliste või majanduslike aparaatide mitte küll väljasulgeva, aga domineeriva kontrolli all (ülikool, armee, kirjutus, teabevahendid); ja lõpuks, ta on peapanus kõigis poliitilistes väitlustes ja kõigis sotsiaalsetes kokkupõrgetes (ideoloogilised võitlused). (260)

[…] tõde minu jaoks ei tähenda mitte kogumit tõeseid asju, mis tuleb avastada või omaks võtta, vaid kogumit reegleid, mille järgi tõene lahutatakse väärast ja liidetakse tõesele võimu spetsiifilised avaldused […] (260)

[…] poliitliseks peaküsimuseks pole mitte viga, illusioon, võõrandunud või ideoloogiline teadvus; selleks on tõde ise. (262)

Intellektuaalid ja võim. 170-184

Võitlus võimu vastu, võitlus võimu tuvastamiseks ja paljastamiseks seal, kus ta on kõige nähtamatum ja salakavalam. Võitlus mitte „südametunnistuse äratamiseks” […] vaid võimu õõnestamiseks ja ülevõtmiseks, üheskoos kõigi nendega, kes võimu eest võitlevad, mitte üksinda taamal, et võitlejaid valgustada. „Teooria” on selle võitluse regionaalne süsteem. (Foucault, 173)

Teooria ei totaliseeri, teooria paljuneb ja paljundab. Võimu loomuses on totaliseerida ja te ütlete väga õigesti, et teooria on loomult võimuvastane. […] Tõepoolest, see süsteem, milles me elame, ei suuda taluda kõige vähematki: see tingibki tema hapruse igas punktis, nagu ka vajaduse igakülgse repressiooni järele. Minu arvates te tegite meile esimesena […] selgeks ühe väga olulise asja: teiste eest kõnelemise väärituse. […] teooria lähtekohast peaksid lõppeks ainult otseselt asjasse segatud inimesed rääkima praktilisel moel iseenda eest. (Deleuze, 174-175)

Vangla on ainus paik, kus võim saab ennast ilmutada alastu kujul oma kõige äärmuslikumates vormides ja õigustada ennast sealjuures kõlbelise jõuna. (Foucault, 176)

[…] kui inimesed hakkavad tegutsema ja rääkima iseenda nimel, ei vastanda nad ühte esindamist (olgu see või pea peale pööratud) teisele, nad ei vastanda uut esindamist võimu väärale esindamisele. Näiteks meenub mulle, kuidas te ütlesite, et pole olemas rahvakohut, mis vastanduks tavalisele kohtule; see toimub hoopis teisel tasandil. (Deleuze, 177)

Võitlusdiskursus ei vastandu teadvustamatule: ta vastandub varjatule. […] Terve rida arusaamatusi on seotud mõistetega, nagu „peidetud”, „tõrjutud” ja „mitteöeldu”, mis lubavad odavalt „psühhoanalüüsida” seda, mis peaks olema võitluse objekt. Varjatut on tõenäoliselt keerulisem esile tuua kui teadvustamatut. (Foucault, 181)

Seega ei taga võitluste üleüldist iseloomu kindlasti mitte see totaliseerumisvorm, milles te äsja kõnelesite, see teoreetiline totaliseerimine „tõe” kujul. Võitluse üldise olemuse tagab võimu enda süsteem, kõik võimu teostamise ja rakendamise vormid. (Foucault, 184)