The Hermeneutics of the Subject is the third volume in the collection of Michel Foucault's lectures at the Collège de France, where faculty give public lectures on any topic of their choosing. Attended by thousands, Foucault's lectures were seminal events in the world of French letters, and his ideas expressed there remain benchmarks of contemporary critical inquiry.
Foucault's wide-ranging lectures at this school, delivered throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, clearly influenced his groundbreaking books, especially The History of Sexuality and Discipline and Punish. In the lectures comprising this volume, Foucault focuses on how the "self" and the "care of the self" were conceived during the period of antiquity, beginning with Socrates. The problems of the ethical formation of the self, Foucault argues, form the background for our own questions about subjectivity and remain at the center of contemporary moral thought.
This series of lectures continues to throw new light on Foucault's final works, and shows the full depth of his engagement with ancient thought. Lucid and provocative, The Hermeneutics of the Subject reveals Foucault at the height of his powers.
About the Author
Michel Foucault's works include Madness and Civilization and The History of Sexuality. Series editor Arnold I. Davidson teaches at the University of Chicago. Translator Graham Burchell has written essays on Foucault and was an editor of The Foucault Effect. He lives in Italy.
Table of Contents
Foreword: François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana
Introduction: Arnold I. Davidson
One: 6 January 1982: First Hour
Reminder of the general problematic: subjectivity and truth. New theoretical point of departure: the care of the self. Interpretations of the Delphic precept "know yourself." Socrates as man of care of the self: analysis of three extracts from The Apology. Care of the self as precept of ancient philosophical and moral life. Care of the self in the first Christian texts. Care of the self as general standpoint, relationship to the self and set practices. Reasons for the modern elimination of care of the self in favor of self-knowledge: modern morality; the Cartesian moment. The Gnostic exception. Philosophy and spirituality.
Two: 6 January 1982: Second Hour
Presence of conflicting requirements of spirituality: science and theology before Descartes; classical and modern philosophy; Marxism and psychoanalysis. Analysis of a Lacedaemonian maxim: the care of the self as statutory privilege. First analysis of Plato's Alcibiades. Alcibiades' political expectations and Socrates' intervention. The education of Alcibiades compared with that of young Spartans and Persian Princes. Contextualization of the first appearance of the requirement of care of the self in Alcibiades: political expectation and pedagogical deficiency; critical age; absence of political knowledge (savior). The indeterminate nature of the self and its political implications.
Three: 13 January 1982: First Hour
Contexts of appearance of the Socratic requirement of care of the self: the political ability of young men from good families; the (academic and erotic) limits of Athenian pedagogy; the ignorance of which one is unaware. Practices of transformation of the self in archaic Greece. Preparation for dreaming and testing techniques in Pythagoreanism. Techniques of the self in Plato's Phaedo. Their importance in Hellenistic philosophy. The question of the being of the self one must take care of in the Abcibiades. Definition of the self as soul. Definition of the soul as subject of action. The care of the self in relation to dietetics, economics, and erotics. The need for a master of the care.
Four: 13 January 1982: Second Hour
Determination of care of the self as self-knowledge in the Alcibiades: conflict between the two requirements in Plato's work. The metaphor of the eye: source of vision and divine element. End of the dialogue: the concern for justice. Problems of the dialogue's authenticity and its general relation to Platonism. Care of the self in the Alcibiades in its relation to political action, pedagogy, and the erotics of boys. Anticipation in the Alcibiades of the fate of care of the self in Platonism. Neo-Platonist descendants of Alcibiades. The paradox of Platonism.
Five: 20 January 1982: First Hour
The care of the self from Alcibiades to the first two centuries A.D.: general evolution. Lexical study around the epimeleia. A constellation of expressions. Generalizations of the care of the self: that it is coextensive with the whole of life. Reading of texts: Epicurus, Musonius Rufus, Seneca, Epictetus, Philo of Alexandria, Lucian. Ethical consequences of this generalization: care of self as axis of training and correction; convergence of medical and philosophical activity (common concepts and therapeutic objective).
Six: 20 January 1982: Second Hour
The privileged status of old age (positive goal and ideal point of existence). Generalization of the principle of care of the self (with universal vocation) and connection with sectarian phenomena. Social spectrum involved: from the popular religious milieu to Roman aristocratic networks of friendship. Two other examples: Epicurean circles and the Therapeutae group. Rejection of the paradigm of the law. Structural principle of double articulation: universality of appeal and rarity of election. The form of salvation.
Seven: 27 January 1982: First Hour
Reminder of the general characteristics of practices of the self in the first and second centuries. The question of the Other: three types of mastership in Plato's dialogues. Hellenistic and Roman period: the mastership of subjectivation. Analysis of stultitia in Seneca. The figure of the philosopher as master of subjectivation. The Hellenic institutional form: the Epicurean school and the Stoic meeting. The Roman institutional form: the private counselor of life.
Eight: 27 January 1982: Second Hour
The professional philosopher of the first and second centuries and his political choices. Euphrates in Pliny's Letters: an anti-Cynic. Philosophy as social practice outside the school: the example of Seneca. The correspondence between Fronto and Marcus Aurelius: systematization of dietetics, economics, and erotics in the guidance of existence. Examination of conscience.
Nine: 3 February 1982: First Hour
Neo-Platonist commentaries on the Alcibiades: Proclus and Olympiodorus. The Neo-Platonist separation of the political and the cathartic. Study of the link between care of the self and care for others in Plato: purpose, reciprocity, and essential implication. Situation in the first and second centuries: self finalization of the self. Consequences: a philosophical art of living according to the principle of conversion; the development of a culture of the self. Religious meaning of the idea of salvation. Meanings of soteria and of salus.
Ten: 3 February 1982: Second Hour
Questions from the public concerning subjectivity and truth. Care of the self and care of others: a reversal of relationships. The Epicurean conception of friendship. The Stoic conception of man as a communal being. The false exception of the Prince.
Eleven: 10 February 1982: First Hour
Reminder of the double opening up of care of the self with regard to pedagogy and political activity. The metaphors of the self-finalization of the self. The invention of a practical schema: conversion to the self. Platonic epistrophe and its relation to conversion to the self. Christian metanoia and its relation to conversion to the self. The classical Greek meaning of metanoia. Defense of a third way, between Platonic epistrophe curiosity. Athletic concentration.
Twelve: 10 February 1982: Second Hour
General theoretical framework: veridiction and subjectivation. Knowledge (savoir) of the world and practice of the self in the Cynics: the example of Demetrius. Description of useful knowledge (connaissances) in Demetrius. Ethopoetic knowledge (savoir). Physiological knowledge (connaissance) in Epicurus. The parrhesia of Epicurean physiologists.
Thirteen 17 February 1982: First Hour
Conversion to self as successfully accomplished form of care of the self. The metaphor of navigation. The pilot's technique as paradigm of governmentality. The idea of an ethic of return to the self: Christian refusal and abortive attempts of the modem epoch. Conversion to self without the principle of a knowledge of the self. Two eclipsing models: Platonic recollection and Christian exegesis. The hidden model: Hellenistic conversion to self. Knowledge of the world and self-knowledge in Stoic thought. The example of Seneca: criticism of culture in Seneca's Letters to Lucilius; the movement of the gaze in Natural Questions.
Fourteen: 17 February 1982: Second Hour
End of the analysis of the preface to the third part of Natural Questions. Study of the preface to the first part. The movement of the knowing soul in Seneca: description; general characteristic; after-effect. Conclusions: essential implication of knowledge of the self and knowledge (connaissance) of the world; liberating effect of knowledge (savoir) of the world; irreducibility to the Platonic model. The view from above.
Fifteen 24 February 1982: First Hour
The spiritual of knowledge (savoir) in Marcus Aurelius: the work of analyzing representations; defining and describing; seeing and naming; evaluating and testing; gaining access to the grandeur of the soul. Examples of spiritual exercises in Epictetus. Christian exegesis and Stoic analysis of representations. Return to Marcus Aurelius: exercises of the decomposition of the object in time; exercises of the analysis of the object into its material components; exercises of the reductive description of the object. Conceptual structure of spiritual knowledge (savior). Faust.
Sixteen: 24 February 1982: Second Hour
Virtue and its relation to askesis. The absence of reference to objective knowledge of the subject in mathesis. The absence of reference to law in askesis. Objective and means of askesis. Characterization of the paraskeue: discourse-action. Mode of being of these discourses: the prokheiron. Askesis as practice of the incorporation of truth-telling in the subject.
Seventeen: 3 march 1982: First Hour
Conceptual separation of Christian from philosophical ascesis. Practices of subjectivation: the importance of listening exercises. The ambiguous nature of listening, between passivity and activity: Plutarch's Peri tou akouein; Seneca's letter CVIII; Epictetus' discourse II.23. Listening in the absence of tekhne. The ascetic rules of listening: silence; precise non-verbal communication, and general demeanor of the good listener; attention (attachment to the referent of the discourse and subjectivation of the discourse through immediate memorization).
Eighteen: 3 March 1982: Second Hour
The practical rules of correct listening and its assigned end: mediation. The ancient meaning of melete / meditation as exercise performed by thought on the subject. Writing as physical exercise of the incorporation of discourse. Correspondence as circle of subjectivation / veridiction. The art of speaking in Christian spirituality: the forms of the spiritual director's true discourse; the confession (l'aveu) of the person being directed; telling the truth about oneself as condition of salvation. The Greco-Roman practice of guidance: constitution of a subject of truth through the attentive silence of the person being guided; the obligation of parrhesia in the master's discourse.
Nineteen: 10 March 1982: First Hour
Parrhesia as ethical attitude and technical procedure in the master's discourse. The adversaries of parrhesia: flattery and rhetoric. The importance of the themes of flattery and anger in the new system of power. An example: the preface to the fourth book of Seneca's Natural Questions (exercise of power, relationship to oneself, dangers of flattery). The Prince's fragile wisdom. The points of opposition between parrhesia and rhetoric: the division between truth and lie; the status of technique; the effects of subjectivation. Positive conceptualization of parrhesia: the Peri parrhesias of Philodemus.
Twenty: 10 March 1982: Second Hour
Continuation of the analysis of parrhesia: Galen's On the Passions and Errors of the Soul. Characteristics of libertas according to Seneca: refusal of popular and bombastic eloquence; transparency and rigor; incorporation of useful discourses; an art of conjecture. Structure of libertas: perfect transmission of thought and the subject's commitment in his discourse. Pedagogy and psychagogy: relationship and evolution in Greco-Roman philosophy and in Christianity.
Twenty-one: 17 March 1982: First Hour
Supplementary remarks on the meaning of the Pythagorean rules of silence. Defintion of "ascetics." Appraisal of the historical ethnology of Greek ascetics. Reminder of the Alcibiades: withdrawal of ascetics into self-knowledge as mirror of the divine. Ascetics of the first and second centuries: a double decoupling (with regard to the principle of self-knowledge and with regard to the principle of recognition in the divine). Explanation of the Christian fate of Hellenistic and Roman ascetics: rejection of the gnosis. Life's work. Techniques of existence, exposition of two levels: mental exercise; training in real life. Exercises of abstinence: the athletic body in Plato and the hardy body in Musonius Rufus. The practice of tests and its characteristics.
Twenty-two: 17 March 1982: Second Hour
Life itself as a test. Seneca's De Providentia: the test of existing and itsdiscriminating function. Epictetus and the philosophy-scout. The transfiguration of evils: from old Stoicism to Epictetus. The test in Greek tragedy. Comments on the indifference of the Hellenistic preparation of existence to Christian dogmas on immortality and salvation. The art of living and care of the self: a reversal of relationship. Sign of this reversal: the theme of virginity in the Greek novel.
Twenty-three: 24 March 1982: First Hour
Reminder of results of previous lecture. The grasp of self by the self in Plato's Alcibiades and in the philosophical texts of the first and second centuries A.D.: comparative study. The three major forms of Western reflexivity: recollection, mediation, and method. The illusion of contemporary Western philosophical historiography. The two meditative series: the test of the content of truth and the test of the subject of truth. The Greek disqualification of projection into the future: the primacy of memory; the ontological-ethical void of the future. The Stoic exercise of presuming of evils: the possible, the certain, and the imminent. Presumption of evils as sealing off the future and reduction of reality.
Twenty-four: 24 March 1982: Second Hour
The meditation on death: a sagittal and retrospective gaze. Examination of conscience in Seneca and Epictetus. Philosophical ascesis. Bio-technique, test of the self, objectification of the world: the challenges of Western philosophy.
Course Context: Frédéric Gros
Index of Names
Index of Notions and Concepts