Foucault as Virtue Ethicist

  • Neil Levy University of Melbourne


In his last two books and in the essays and interviews associated with them, Foucault develops a new mode of ethical thought he describes as an aesthetics of existence. I argue that this new ethics bears a striking resemblance to the virtue ethics that has become prominent in Anglo-American moral philosophy over the past three decades, in its classical sources, in its opposition to rule-based systems and its positive emphasis upon what Foucault called the care for the self. I suggest that seeing Foucault and virtue ethicists as engaged in a convergent project sheds light on a number of obscurities in Foucault's thought, and provides us with a historical narrative in which to situate his claims about the development of Western moral thought.

Author Biography

Neil Levy, University of Melbourne
Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Department of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne, Australia