Foucault as an Ethical Philosopher: The Genealogical Discussion of Antiquity and the Present

  • Dimitrios Lais University of York

Abstract

The paper further realises Foucault’s genealogy of ethics to grasp genealogy as the totality of three axes – power, truth, and ethics – driven by the ethical axis. The paper demonstrates that Foucault’s discussion of antiquity is genealogical. The main focus is Foucault’s late work and, in particular, his final lectures on The Courage of Truth. The paper highlights the genealogical function of the distinction between ‘Laches’ and ‘Alcibiades’. ‘Laches’ provides a heuristic source for self-care in the present in the form of practices of living tied to the ‘Laches’ parrhesia. But, it is also a critique of the present applied to democratic theories that have used the neo-platonic line of the ‘Alcibiades’ parrhesia – of which Foucault disapproves – as their source in creating traceable technologies of the self tied to structures of domination. Such technologies freeze games of power and governmentalise the problematisation of how to govern the self. Hence, the genealogical discussion of antiquity in connection with an understanding of genealogy as problematisation should be perceived as a heuristic source of self-creation with critical implications for evaluating power regimes in the present. The paper introduces the link between the ancient past and the present with respect to Foucault vis-à-vis certain democratic theories. The central aim is to consider on what grounds placing the problematisation of the self at the centre of a new politics can be also linked to governmentality. In this context, the paper also clarifies the wider implication of its core premise for Foucauldian studies and the emerging discussion of parrhesia.

Author Biography

Dimitrios Lais, University of York
Dimitrios Lais holds a PhD from the University of York. He has previously obtained his master’s degree from the London School of Economics and his undergraduate degree from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He is currently completing a book on Foucault, Genealogy and Globalisation.

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Published
2019-12-30