The Theme of Subjectivity in Foucault's Lecture Series '<i>Herméneutique du Sujet</i>'

  • Sebastian Harrer Bonn University


The 'late' Foucault and his purported 'return to the subject' is a much discussed issue. Over the past twenty years, various suggestions have been made as to how to integrate Foucault's ethics into his oeuvre as a whole. This paper holds that there is a 'conceptual continuity', rather than a break, between Foucault's earlier works on normalizing power, and his later works on ethical self-constitution. On the basis of a conceptual framework, which is developed in Section II, a reading of two themes concerning certain practices of the self is offered in the following sections (namely, dietetics and spiritual guidance). The material, drawn from the recently published lecture series L'herméneutique du sujet as well as from other published works, is related back to Foucault's ideas on the process of 'subjectivation', in order to support the claim that 'fabrication' and 'self-constitution' are but two aspects of subjectivation. Keywords: late Foucault, ethics, practices of the self, self-constitution, discipline, power, surveillance, spiritual guidance, meditation, parrhesia, dietetics, art of living, aesthetics of existence, return of the subject, subjectivation, relation to self.

Author Biography

Sebastian Harrer, Bonn University
Sebastian Harrer has a Maîtrise in Philosophy from the University of Paris I on Foucault's concept of 'l'esthétique de l'existence'. In 2004 he was a visiting PhD student in the School of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He is currently enrolled for a PhD in the Department of Philosophy at Bonn University (Germany). Research for his thesis centres on theories of emotion, practical identity and meta-ethics.