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The Ethical Self in the Later Foucault: the Question of Normativity



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Rae, Gavin (2022) The Ethical Self in the Later Foucault: the Question of Normativity. Sophia . ISSN 0038-1527

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11841-021-00893-x


Michel’s Foucault’s later work has been the subject of much critical interest regarding the question of whether it provides a normative stance that prescribes how the self ought to act. Having frst outlined the nature of the debate, I engage with Foucault’s comparative analysis of the ethical systems of ancient Greeks and Christianity to show that he holds that the former maintains that the ethical subject was premised not on adherence to a priori rules as in Christianity, but from and around an on-going process of practical experimentation. From this, Foucault goes on to describe the practices through which the self acted to make and re-make itself, which leads to the question of whether such descriptions also contain prescriptions as to how the self should act. I argue that they do contain a prescriptively normative stance, but in a very specifc sense. Rather than delineating the specifc ethical commitments we should adopt, Foucault takes of from the example of the ancient Greeks to insist that individuals should adopt an indeterminate orientating principle based on absolute openness to each context, with this principle given content through a context-specifc, spontaneous, on-going, and inherently individual, albeit socially situated, process of practical experimentation. The result is a highly original account of normativity that makes individuals absolutely responsible for themselves and their ethical activities in each moment.

Item Type:Article
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CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2021)

Uncontrolled Keywords:Foucault, Normativity, Ethics, Self
Subjects:Humanities > Philosophy
Humanities > Philosophy > Ethics
ID Code:71047
Deposited On:08 Mar 2022 13:02
Last Modified:08 Mar 2022 13:07

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