Criticism without Critique: Power and Experience in Foucault and James

  • Jeffrey S. Edmonds Vanderbilt University


Through an analysis of philosophical temperaments, I argue that both William James and Michel Foucault believed the central task of philosophy not only to be the generation of new ideas or ways of thinking, but also to create new temperaments, new ways of inhabiting the world. Though James and Foucault in many ways agree on the ends of philosophy, the methods and strategies that they developed differ according to the problems with which each philosopher was concerned. Although James gives a rich account of what it means to see philosophy as the reconstruction of temperament, Foucault’s genealogical method explains concretely how temperaments might be reconstructed through the use of history. Raising questions of how this work might effectively continue today, I argue that Foucauldians and Jamesians, Continental philosophers and American pragmatists, might find common cause in exploring the production and reconstruction of democratic temperaments in response to social problems.

Author Biography

Jeffrey S. Edmonds, Vanderbilt University
Special Issue on Foucault and Pragmatism