Archive for the ‘parrhesia’ Category

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 “Fearless Speech”

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2001. Fearless Speech. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).

1. The Word Parrhesia

The one who uses parrhesia, the parrhesiastes, is someone who says everything he has in mind: he does not hide anything, but opens his heart and mind completely to other people through his discourse. […] And he does this by avoiding any kind of rhetorical form which would veil what he thinks. (12)

There are two types of parrhesia which we must distinguish. First, there is a pejorative sense of the word not very far from „chattering”, and which consists in saying any- or everything one has in mind without qualification. This pejorative sense occurs in Plato, for example, as a characterization of the bad democratic constitution where everyone has the right ti address his fellow citizens and to tell them everything – even the most stupid and dangerous things for the city. (13)

To my mind, the parrhesiastes says what is true because he knows that it is true because it really is true. The parrhesiastes is not only sincere and says what is his opinion, but his opinion is also the truth. (14)

For the Greeks, however, the coincidence between belief and truth does not take place in a (mental) experience, but in a verbal activity, namely, parrhesia. It appears that parrhesia, in this Greek sense, can no longer occur in our modern epistemological framework. (14)

If there is a kind of „proof” of the sincerity of the parrhesiastes, it is his courage. (15)

So you see, the parrhesiastes is someone who takes a risk. Of course, this risk is not always a risk of life. […] Parrhesia, then, is linked to courage in the face of danger: it demands the courage to speak the truth in spite of some danger. And in its extreme form, telling the truth takes place in the „game” of life or death. It is because the parrhesiastes must take a risk in speaking the truth that the king or tyrant generally cannot use parrhesia; for he risks nothing. (16)

But the parrhesiastes primarily chooses a specific relationship to himself: he prefers himself as a truth-treller rather than as a living being who is false to himself. (17)

For in parrhesia the danger always comes from the fact that the said truth is capable of hurting or angering the interlocutor. (17)

So you see, the function of parrhesia is not to demonstrate the truth of someone else, but has the function of criticism: criticism of the interlocutor or of the speaker himself. (17)

Parrhesia is a form of criticism, either towards another or towards oneself, but always in a situation where the speaker or confessor is in a position of inferiority with respect to the interlocutor. […] The parrhesia comes from „below”, as it were, and is directed towards „above”. (18)

This is not to imply, however, that anyone can use parrhesia. For although there is a text in Euripides where a servant uses parrhesia, most of the time the use of parrhesia requires that the parrhesiastes know his own genealogy, his own status; i.e., usually one must first be a male citizen to speak the truth as a parrhesiastes. (18)

[…] in parrhesia, telling the truth is regarded as duty. The orator who speaks the truth to those who cannot accept his truth, for instance, and who may be axiled, or punished in some way, is free to keep silent. No one forces him to speak, but he feels that it is his duty to do so. […] Parrhesia is thus related to freedom and to duty. (19)

More precisely, parrhesia is a verbal acitivity in which a speaker expresses his personal relationship to truth, and risks his life because he recognizes truth-telling as a duty to improve or help other people (as well as himself). (19)

The continuous long speech is a rhetorical or sophistical device, whereas the dialogue through questions and answers is typical for parrhesia, i.e., dialogue is a major technique for playing the parrhesiastic game. (20)

Athenian democracy was defined very explicitly as a constitution (politeia) in which people enjoyed demokratia, isegoria (the equal right of speech), isonomia (the equal participation of all citizens in the exercise of power), and parrhesia. Parrhesia, which is a requisite for public speech, takes place between citizens as individuals, and also between citizens construed as an assembly. Moreover, the agora is the place where parrhesia appears. (22)

D.M. Carter “Citizen Attribute, Negative Right”

December 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Carter, D.M. 2004. Citizen Attribute, Negative Right: A Conceptual Difference Between Ancient and Modern Ideas of Freedom of Speech. – Ineke Sluiter; Ralph M. Rosen (eds). Free Speech in Classical Antiquity. Boston; Leiden: Brill, 197-219.

Under modern democracies, freedoms are conceived of as negative rights, and these include a right to Freedom of Speech. The Athenians, on the other hand, while they conceived of political freedom in terms very close to a negative right, thought of free speech as something very different: a characteristic of citizens, an attribute, which was a sort of side effect of their political enfranchisement. (198)

Isêgoria appears earlier in the literature. Its meaning differs from parrhêsia with respect both to the context in which it was often used, and to its meaning: it was a term more likely to be used in a political context, and it held connotations more of equality than freedom. It could be political in meaning as well as context, in that it could be used synonymously with democracy: this is the case in its earliest use, at Herodotus 5.78. Parrhêsia, on the other hand, is the word writers in a non-political context are more likely to choose and, I shall argue, represented more a by-product of democracy than democracy itself. (199)

If isêgoria primarily suggests equality of speech, usually in a political context, parrhêsia is a term, more closely connected with ideas of freedom, that can be used equally of social and political discourse. This freedom can be both a good and a bad thing, either a desirable privilege (as it is often in Euripides and Demosthenes—see below) or something likely to cause offense. (201)

The pejorative sense of parrhêsia can be explained to some extent if we consider the composition of the word: literally, to speak with parrhêsia is to say everything, which might mean everything, good and bad. (201)

Isêgoria meant the equal opportunity to speak that one had under democracy: the most formal, as well as the most obvious, expression of this came, ideologically if not actually, in the Assembly. Parrhêsia meant a tendency to say everything, uninhibited by any fear. This might be the fear—no longer present under democracy—of tyrannical authority (Athenian ideas of the effect of tyranny on free speech are discussed below); it might also be the fear of the usual rules of discourse that prevent shame for the speaker or offense for the listener. (202)

However, I am not aware of any accounts of historical tyrants restricting free speech. Why should such evidence be hard to find? Because, I would suggest, to speak with parrhêsia is to be freed from one’s own sense of fear: a tyrant sees little need actively to discourage free speech when his very person is discouraging enough. Crucially, the subjects of tyranny who in Plato’s imagination operate free speech are only the bravest (νδρικ1τατι), the ones who felt most confident to do so. Because parrhêsia is only an attribute, and not anyone’s right, it is not so much something a tyrant actively restricts, as something his subjects are indisposed to exercise. (211)

Parrhêsia under democracy, therefore, depended not on a freedom from censorship protected by law but on the confidence in giving one’s own opinion that came naturally with democratic citizenship. (214)

Since parrhêsia was a matter of confidence, not right, it was not confined to citizens, but could be adopted by others, simply as a result of residence in Athens. (215)

Pramod K. Nayar “WikiLeaks, the New Informational Cultures, and Digital Parrhesia”

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Nayar, Pramod K. 2010. WikiLeaks, the New Information Cultures, and Digital Parrhesia. Economic and Political Weekly 45.52: 27-30.

Like CDC, WL also sees itself as deriving its moral and ethical stance from the UDHR (citing article 19 on its website), and thus locates itself in a global cultural apparatus: the universalmovement for Human and related Rights. (3)

The persecution of Assange – his dramatic arrest, the rape charges, the threats of extradition and possible assassination – makes for a very strange mix where thevirtual meets the flesh-and-blood: online activity whose validity and value are sworn to by the very real threat to the personof Julian Assange. Conversely, does eliminating the ‘body’ of Assange alter the virtual threat that the new culture of information represents? The answer is ‘no’, for we are in the age of an electronic civil society and information culture unlimited to bodies, geographies or national boundaries. (3)

We therefore must see WL’s collection of documents as the processesthat make up the world’s functioning. In a sense, WL directs us, for the first time, to the makingof the world order (or disorder). (4)

We are now in the era of the hyper-visible, by which I mean the excessive and repeated circulation of such images we were not intended to ever see. (5)

Scenes of war, classified documents that legitimised torture, secret parleys behind policy constitute what we might term a counter-archive. An archive has traditionally been a space where documents are stored and the rights of interpretation of these documents rest with a chosen few (known in classical times as ‘archons’). Here, in WL’s archives we have a database from which we, as readers, need to build narratives. […] Therefore, the archive of documents WL leaks must be, and can be, made to tell a story– about injustice, corruption, deprivation, suffering in anypart of the world – depending on our choice of frames of interpretation and wanderings through the corpus. (5)

What WL does is not to pinpoint blames for wrong-doing on X or Y. Rather, it gives us a glimpse of the institutional, state, organizational culturesthat made X or Y’s acts possible. (6)

What WL does is to locate a Lynndie England (the infamous prison warden at Abu Ghraib) within an American culture of war and a war effort that empowered such individuals. The individual soldiers only denote individual wrong-doing, but what we need to see is the connotation – which is the cultural apparatus of atrocity. (7)

If public space is the space for different people to tell their stories WL marks the arrival of such a space (we shall return to the nature and function of this electronic space in the last section). This is the main reason why it is fascinating to see how the USA, the so-called defender of free speech and therefore multiple stories, has suddenly decided that WL is not about free speech at all because it hurts ‘global’ interests (US commentators have even called for the death penalty to Bradley Manning). (7)

These seem to be two apparently contradictory points – about digital parrhesia being performed at risk to the truth-teller and contemporary condition where we cannot pinpoint a singletruth-teller. I propose a slightly different parrhesia, one that is less interested in the truthteller than in the culture of truth-telling. Digital cultures create a new communications culture, which generates a new community, the global civil society (we have seen this in the case of online supports, campaigns, humanitarian efforts in the wake of the tsunami, Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, protests against the WTO, etc), and the globalisation of conscience. WL is an embodiment of this new form of communications-leading-to-community, a digital parrhesia. At risk is digital space as parrhesiastic space. At risk is a new media cultural practice (Napster, Bit Torrent, Rapidshare, Creative Commons, Open Source Movement, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks), not the individual voice. At risk is the entire culture of information sharing, the agora of information. (10)

Robert Castel, Francoise Castel, Anne Lovell “The Psychiatric Society”

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Castel, Robert; Francoise Castel; Anne Lovell 1982. The Psychiatric Society. New York: Columbia University Press.


Part Three: Psychamerica

With the advent of mental medicine, the lunatic came to be seen as a patient suffereing from a malady. For the first time, a distinction was made between the mentally ill individual and others belonging to such miscellanous categories as social deviants, delinquents, vagabonds, vagrants, debauchees, wastrels, idiots, criminals, and others guilty of violating social and sexual norms. (171)

The nosographic classifications of mental illness have always been dubious, however. They are based on the assumption that there is a clear divdiding line between people who are „ill“ and therefore within the purview of psychiatry, on the one hand, and people who are „normal“ – though they may come under the jurisdiction of some other repressive agency, such as the courts – on the other hand. (171)

The people who seek these new services exhibit symptoms that are signs not so much of a specific pathology as of a malaise in daily life: exaggerating somewhat, one might say that what must be cured is normality. Now that we have reached the point of „therapy for the normal“, virtually all of social space has been opened up to the new techniques of psychological manipulation. (172)


Chapter 6: The Psychiatrization of Difference

In many police departments social workers are on call around the clock. There are „roving medical teams“ which include a psychologist and an intern who work for the police. This gives mental health personnel access through the police to people who would never have thought of seeking psychiatric help on their own, particularly in the ghettos and other poor areas. (177)

American courts confront a basic contradiction. Unable to mete out the prison sentences provided for by law, they discharge their responsibilities by sending lawbreakers to community treatment programs, most of which the judges know to be shams. What makes this deceit credible is that the concept of „treatment“ is invoked – in other words, the contention is that techniques based on medicine will be used to rehabilitate delinquents. Were it not for this safety valve, perhaps the fiction that justice is being done by the courts would have been exploded long ago, and people might then have been willing to look more closely at the foundations of a legal system (and a society) so conceived that nearly a third of the nation’s young people violate its laws. Rather than raise basic questions about the system, people have cast about for dubious alternative to what are ostensibly the most brutal forms of punishment. What is paradoxical about all but a few of these „alternatives“ is that they have done nothing to empty the prisons while augmenting the number of people mixed up with the courts. (183)

[…] the legal criterion for accepting or rejecting experimentation of this sort turned on the degree to which the technique in question was genuinely „medical“. (188)

According to some estimates, however, the number of addicts was most likely higher in the early twenties than it is today, perhaps nearly as high as one million. But addiction was not yet recognized as a social scourge. What has happened lately is not so much a drug „epidemic“ – a term suggestuve of the medicalization of the problem – as a stepping up of coordinated efforts to control certain social groups. (190)

In retrospect, the nineteenth and realy twentiet centuiries have been called a „drug addicts’ paradise“: morphine and heroin were widely used both for medical purposes (in the treatment of alcoholicm, as sedatives, and for „women’s troubles“) and simply for pleasure. The definition of a substance as a drug is a social act and goes hand in hand with efforts to restrict its use. (191)

[…] methadone has two decisive advantages in connection with drug control policy: there is no withdrawal, so users are less likely to be drive to violent crime in search of drugs or money to satisfy their craving, and users become dependent on methadone and are thereby forced to submit to daily scrutiny by the medical personnel who dispence the drug. Official documents recognize the fact that methadone users are in a dependent state and hold that this is one key to its effectiveness. One stated that many addicts have difficulty forming close relationships, and if they were not dependent on metadone, they would find it difficult if not impossible to go to the dispensary every day and establish a long-term relationship with the staff. Thus the dependence created by methadone is crucial to establishing a potentially therapeutic and rehabilitatice relationship with the addict. (197)

The new techniques have made it possible to tighten surveillance and control and extend their range. If prisons are beginning to look like hospitals, this means that their claim to provide therapy is not incompatible with their repressive function. (202)

For children even more than adults, psychiatric labels are often thin disguises for difficulties in adjusting to specific social, family, or scholastic situations rather than descriptions of clear-cut pathologies. (202)

The present goal is not merely to segregate abnormal individuals but also to detect potentially troublesome cases early on. One element of the new stategy is to examine everyone belonging to certain specific social groups or age categories. (204)

Schools are increasingly being used to separate the wheat from the chaff, the normal from the pathological, and growing numbers of specialists are being trained to assist, cousel, and treat what might be calles „abnormal pupils.“ (206)

Thus it seems clear that the real target of the treatment is the child’s disruptive behavior per se. The therapeutic excuse for the use of these drugs has been abandoned, and they are now openly accepted as instruments of control. As one pediatrician has put it, the object of medication is to improve the functioning of the brain so that the child becomes more normal in his thinking and responses. (209)

[…] childhood in general has become the prime target of an indiscriminate hunt for anomalous behavior. (210)

William Ryan has used the phrase blaming the victim to describe the ideologies and practices that have been used in the United States against deprived groups and individuals suspected of menacing law and order. This is how it works: „First, identify a social proble,. Secon, study those affected by the problem and discover in what ways they are different from the rest of us as a consequence of deprivation and injustice. Third, define the differences as the cause of the problem itself. Finally, of course, assign a government bureaucrat to invent a humanitarian action program to correct the difference.“ (210-211)

If we are right in thinking that we are now witnessing a transition to a new and more effective level of technological manipulation of marginal social groups, hten criticism of social control policies must also shift its ground to focus on the manipulative uses of the „scientific“ approach. (213)


Chapter 8: Psy Services and Their New Consumers

One comes away with an impression that everyday life is utterly suffused with interpretations stemming from medical psychology; the methods are now so flexible that nothing further stands in the way of their unlimited proliferation. The political implications of this colonization of social life by psychology are enormous. (257)

The same society that welcomed Freud as the messiah continues to celebrate his lesser epigones. Why? Because the role that psychoanalysis played in the United States was not limited to dominating, as it once did, the narrow field of mental medicine. Psychonanalysis was the main instrument for the reduction of social issues in general to questions of psychology. (261-262)

With the arrival of the post-psychoanalytic era it has become possible to speak of „therapy for the normal“ on a much wider scale. This is an important change, for it implies that anyone and everyone now falls within the purview of one of the new types of therapy. (264)

[…] behavior modification has been used as a way of imposing scientifically designed controls on the daily routine of many people; it therefore lends itself to a virtually unlimited range of applications. With some exaggeration, perhaps, it might be said that behavior modification turns all of life into an educational and disciplinary institution. (266)

„Therapy for the normal“, then, uses an array of mental and, particularly, physical tehcniques to maximize the „human yield“ of each individual; it is not aimed at healing, as standard therapies presumably are. The goal is not to get well, but to become healthier (that is to experience more pleasure, to „get in touch with one’s feelings“, to become aware of one’s body, etc.). Medical healing gives way to personality growth: Encounter groups are designed for people who are functioning normally but who wish to impove their relationships with others. (282)

To earn the right to treatent (as psychoanalysis had suspected), the normal individual must exhibit neurotic symptoms. But what is a symptom? „A psychic symptom today is no longer a symptom but a sign that life lacks joy.“ Normal life – social life – is sick, it requires therapy, therapy for nomrality, and techniques to develop human potential and foster autonomy and enhance pleasure in a sad and alienated world. Adjustment, then, has been supplanted by a normative notion of normality – normality seen, in this new light, as the product of „working on“ one’s own personality. (282-283)

If a man’s social status is merely a product of the way he lives his life, then it is possible to use technical means to manipulate the factors that enter into his choices. With regard to relations between social groups, this outlook has led unions, for wxample, to take a particular line, namely, to make demands aimed at enabling the category of worker they represent to „play the game“ successfully within the system, i.e., to compete successfully in the struggle for advancement. With regard to the lowest strata in the society, it has led to a welfare policy that seeks to minister to individual shortcomings without touching the structural conditions that may be responsible for them (293)

What is being worked out, in short, is a completely rational concept of man, a concept perfectly attuned to the dominant notion of what is rational. The problem then ceases to be one of healing the sick, reeducating the guilty, ot controlling deviant behavior (these goals remain, of course, but as objectives allied with new techniques). Instead, „normal“ man has come to the fore as the center of attention in a society whose only passion is to produce earnestly and efficiently. To heal is good, to precent is better, but to maximize output by adjusting each individual to his social role and by calibrating change to the social dynamic as required by the necessity to reproduce the social order is surely the ideal of policy without politics. (295)



Underlying the boldest attempts to standardize behavior is a conception of a sort of „scientific“ utopia: to achieve happiness for both the individual and the community by means of rational planning carried out by technical experts. (316)

If the study of recent changes in psychiatry proves anything, it is how much the present expansion of psychiatry’s sphere of influence owes to those who have come one after another to work on the fringes of the profession, pushing back its boundaries by „moving beyond“the old models, which they descrube as archaic, coercive, prescriptive, and so forth. (319-320)

Psychiactric sociaty: No longer a society in which psychiatry takes care of a few patients, whether really ill or merely purported to be, in any case defined bu a starky contrast between the normal and the pathological; but rather an organization of everyday life in which manipulative techniques, more often than not developed and popularized mental medicine, become coextensive with all aspects of social life. No longer the manifestation of naked power exerted directly to repress social and political differences; but rather diffuse pressures of many kinds, which invalidate such differences by interpreting them as so many symptoms to be treated. Not the country of gray dawns in which state commissars drag dissidents out of bed at the crow of the cock; but rather a padded world watched over night and day by squads of skilled specialists, many of them well-meaning. Skilled at what? At manipulating people to accept the constraints of society. (320)

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)