Reading Foucault is always fascinating, but rarely easy. Luckily, there are some good introductory texts to help you make your way through.
See, for example,. Book Theme:. Rise of the Avatar. Attached Image:. Key Concepts:. Discourse Foucault was interested in the phenomenon of discourse throughout his career, primarily in how discourses define the reality of the social world and the people, ideas, and things that inhabit it. Discipline Foucault argues that discipline is a mechanism of power that regulates the thought and behavior of social actors through subtle means. Governmentality and Biopower In his later work, Foucault coined the now influential concept of governmentality.
In the philosophical tradition dominated by Stoicism, askesis means not renunciation but the progressive consideration of self, or mastery over oneself, obtained not through the renunciation of reality but through the acquisition and assimilation of truth.
It is a set of practices by which one can acquire, assimilate, and transform truth into a permanent principle of action. Alethia becomes ethos. It is a process of becoming more subjective. What are the principle features of askesis?
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They include exercises in which the subject puts himself into a situation in which he can verify whether he can confront events and use the discourse with which he is armed. It is a question of testing the preparation. Is this truth assimilated enough to become ethics so that we can behave as we must when an event presents itself? The Greeks characterized the two poles of those exercises by the terms melete and gymnasia. It has the same root as epimelesthai. It is a rather vague term, a technical term borrowed from rhetoric.
Melete is the work one undertook in order to prepare a discourse or an improvisation by thinking over useful terms and arguments. You had to anticipate the real situation through dialogue in your thoughts.
The philosophical meditation is this kind of meditation: It is composed of memorizing responses and reactivating those memories by placing oneself in a situation where one can imagine how one would react. The most famous exercise of meditation is the premeditatio mallorum as practiced by the Stoics.
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It is an ethical, imaginary experience. The Stoics developed three eidetic reductions of future misfortune. For example, imagining not that one might be exiled but rather that one is already exiled, subjected to torture, and dying. Third, one does this not in order to experience inarticulate sufferings but in order to convince oneself that they are not real ills.
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The reduction of all that is possible, of all the duration and of all the misfortunes, reveals not something bad but what we have to accept. It consists of having at the same time the future and the present event. The Epicureans were hostile to it because they thought it was useless. They thought it better to recollect and memorize past pleasures in order to derive pleasure from present events. In the culture of the Stoics, their function is to establish and test the independence of the individual with regard to the external world.
Or one temps oneself by placing oneself in front of many tantalizing dishes and then renouncing these appetizing dishes. Then you call your slaves and give them the dishes, and you take the meal prepared for the slaves. Between these poles of training in thought and training in reality, melete and gymnasia , there are a whole series of intermediate possibilities. Epictetus provides the best example of the middle ground between these poles.
He wants to watch perpetually over representations, a technique which culminates in Freud. The same metaphor of the money changer is found in the Stoics and in early Christian literature but with different meanings. When Epictetus says you have to be a money changer, he means as soon as an idea comes to mind you have to think of the rules you must apply to evaluate.
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For John Cassian, being a money changer and looking at your thoughts means something very different: It means you must try to decipher it, at the root of the movement which brings you the representations, there is or is not concupiscence or desire - if your innocent thought has evil origins; if you have something underlying which is the great seducer, which is perhaps hidden, the money of your thought.
In Epictetus there are two exercises: sophistic and ethical. This must be an ethical game; that is, it must teach a moral lesson. The second are more ambulatory exercises. In the morning you go for a walk, and you test your reactions to that walk. The purpose of both exercises is control of representations, not the deciphering of truth. They are reminders about conforming to the rules in the face of adversity. A pre-Freudian machine of censorship is described word for word in the tests of Epictetus and Cassian.
For Epictetus, the control of representations means not deciphering but recalling principles of acting and thus seeing, through self-examination, if they govern your life. It is a kind of permanent self-examination. You have to be your own censor. The meditation on death is the culmination of all these exercises. In addition to letters, examination, and askesis , we must now evoke a fourth technique in the examination of the self, the interpretation of dreams. It was to have an important destiny in the nineteenth century, but it occupied a relatively marginal position in the ancient world.
Philosophers had an ambivalent attitude toward the interpretation of dreams.
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Most Stoics are critical and skeptical about such interpretation. But there is still the popular and general practice of it.
There were experts who were able to interpret dreams, including Pythagoras and some of the Stoics, and some experts who wrote books to teach people to interpret their own dreams. There were huge amounts of literature on how to do it, but the only surviving manual The Interpretation of Dreams by Artemidorus second century A.
Dream interpretation was important because in antiquity the meaning of a dream was an announcement of a future event. I should mention two other documents dealing with the importance of dream interpretation for everyday life. He was well known and cultivated. Even though he was not a Christian, he asked to be a bishop. His remarks on dreams are interesting, for public divination was forbidden in order to spare the emperor bad news. One had to record what happened every day, both the life of the day and the life of the night.
He believed that in the interpretation of dreams we receive advice from the gods about remedies for illness. With this work, we are at the crossing point of two kinds of discourses. I wish to examine the scheme of one of the main techniques of the self in early Christianity and what it was as a truth game. To do so, I must look at the transition from pagan to Christian culture in which it is possible to see clear-cut continuities and discontinuities. Christianity is not only a salvation religion, it is a confessional religion.
It imposes very strict obligations of truth, dogma, and canon, more so than do the pagan religions. Truth obligations to believe this or that were and are still very numerous. The duty to accept a set of obligations, to hold certain books as permanent truth, to accept authoritarian decisions in matters of truth, not only to believe certain things but to show that one believes, and to accept institutional authority are all characteristic of Christianity. Christianity requires anther form of truth obligation different from faith.