Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar (Tuesday - Week 8, TT23)

Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar

This paper presents a new interpretation of Michel Foucault’s critical project. It is well known that Foucault’s genealogical critique does not focus on issues of justification, but instead tackles “aspectival captivity,” that is, apparently inevitable limits of thought that constrain the agent’s freedom but that, in fact, can be transformed. However, it has not been recognized that, according to Foucault, critique can proceed along two distinct paths. In a key passage of “What Is Critique?,” Foucault states that critique is tasked with questioning truth about its effects of power and with questioning power about its discourses of truth. This paper shows that this “double movement” organizes Foucault’s critical project as a whole, giving it a significantly wider scope and a more complex structure than has been previously acknowledged. At the heart of the above-mentioned bifurcation lies an apparent tension between two contrastive roles Foucault assigns to truth-telling in the context of critique: on the one hand, truth-telling (as avowal) is a target of critique; on the other, truth-telling (as parrhesia) is one of critique’s methods. This paper argues that combining these two dimensions in a unified account is crucial for understanding and re-evaluating Foucault’s critical project as a whole. By showing that truth-telling remains an essential element of Foucauldian critique, it also rectifies some influential misinterpretations according to which Foucault’s critical project seeks to eliminate truth from the picture.


Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph SchearManuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall