'Critique' as Technology of the Self

  • Matthew Sharpe Deakin University


This inquiry is situated at the intersection of two enigmas. The first is the enigma of the status of Kant's practice of critique, which has been the subject of heated debate since shortly after the publication of the first edition of The Critique of Pure Reason. The second enigma is that of Foucault's apparent later 'turn' to Kant, and the label of 'critique', to describe his own theoretical practice. I argue that Kant's practice of 'critique' should be read, after Foucault, as a distinctly modern practice in the care of the self, governed by Kant's famous rubric of the 'primacy of practical reason'. In this way, too, Foucault's later interest in Kant - one which in fact takes up a line present in his work from his complementary thesis on Kant's Anthropology - is cast into distinct relief. Against Habermas and others, I propose that this interest does not represent any 'break' or 'turn' in Foucault's work. In line with Foucault's repeated denials that he was interested after 1976 in a 'return to the ancients', I argue that Foucault's writings on critique represent instead both a deepening theoretical self-consciousness, and part of his project to forge an ethics adequate to the historical present.

Author Biography

Matthew Sharpe, Deakin University
Mika Ojakangas (PhD) is a Research Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (Finland). He has written articles on Foucault in journals such as aut aut (2000) and Telos (2001). His latest book is entitled A Philosophy of Concrete Life: Carl Schmitt and the Political Thought of Late Modernity (Sophi Academic Press 2004). Besides an analysis of Schmitt's work, the book includes analyses on Foucault, Hannah Arendt, and Gilles Deleuze. He is currently writing a book on the history of conscience in the Western philosophical and theological tradition, entitled The Call of Conscience: A Genealogy of Man without Order and Orientation.