Philosophical <i>Parrêsia</i> and Transpolitical Freedom

  • Ottavio Marzocca Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro" Bari


This article highlights that ancient philosophy regenerated the practice of parrêsia following the crisis into which it had fallen in the polis. Through this, it established a strong relationship between freedom, truth, and politics, constantly eluding the risk of using “true speech” as a tool of rationalizing the exercise of power. The primary outset for the argument will be the course held by Foucault in 1982-1983 (Le gouvernement de soi et des autres). The paper holds that philosophical parrêsia asserted itself as a practice that could not be anything but “transpolitical,” while remaining similar to the ideal of freedom as active participation in public life – at least in the case of Socrates and the Cynics. According to Foucault, after a long period of disuse due to the predominance of theology and pastoral power, philosophical parrêsia was able to flourish in modernity. This occurred above all with Kant through the critical ontology of the present. On my part, I try to show how philosophical parrêsia in liberal society runs the risk of being neutralized by the predominance of economic “true speech” and by the prevalence of the idea of freedom as the pursuit of private interests. This is done by re-reading certain indications provided by Foucault himself in his course of 1978-1979 (Naissance de la biopolitique). Moreover, in the last sections of this paper I suggest lines of research that could grasp the difficulties that philosophical parrêsia encounters in the age of neoliberal hegemony and global media coverage.

Author Biography

Ottavio Marzocca, Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro" Bari
Ottavio Marzocca is Associate Professor of Ethical-Political Philosophy and Social Ethics at the Università degli Studi di Bari ‘Aldo Moro’ (Italy). He has written essays and books on Contemporary French Thought, Geo-philosophy, and Italian Neo-Marxism. In the last few years, he has devoted particular attention to the governmental forms of our society, taking as principal references the analyses of Michel Foucault on Biopolitics, Governmentality, Liberal Political Rationality and Government of Self and Others. On these matters he has published, among other texts: Filosofia dell’incommensurabile: Temi e metafore oltre-euclidee in Bachelard, Serres, Foucault, Deleuze, Virilio (Franco Angeli: Milano 1989); La stanchezza di Atlante: Crisi dell’universalismo e geofilosofia (Dedalo: Bari 1994); Transizioni senza meta: Oltremarxismo e antieconomia (Mimesis: Milano 1998); Perché il governo: Il laboratorio etico-politico di Foucault (Manifestolibri: Roma 2007). He was also the coordinating editor of Lessico di biopolitica (Manifestolibri: Roma 2006), the French translation of which was published in 2009 (Lexique de Biopolitique: Les pouvoirs sur la vie, Erès: Toulouse 2009). Currently he is working on the relationships between forms of politics and the world as space, place and environment. On these matters he has edited: Governare l’ambiente? La crisi ecologica tra poteri, saperi e conflitti (Mimesis: Milano 2010). Recently, he also published: Il governo dell’ethos: La produzione politica dell’agire economico (Mimesis: Milano 2011).