The Life and Death of Michel Foucault


Kevin Chaves

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The focus of this paper is not set, as it might seem, upon the biographical details surrounding one of the 20th century?s most piercing and influential philosophers. For one, the nature of Michel Foucault's work and ideas seems to cast a particular amount of doubt over the appropriateness of biography. Instead I have examined the concepts of life and death within Foucault's philosophy: more precisely, Foucault's conception of death and its relation to his conception of an authentic or ethical life. Foucault?s works deal largely with the history of ideas and certain ?human sciences.? Indeed, he stated himself: My objective for more than twenty-five years has been to sketch out a history of the different ways in our culture that humans develop knowledge about themselves: economics, biology, psychiatry, medicine, and penology. The main point is not to accept this knowledge at face value but to analyze these so-called sciences as very specific ?truth games? related to specific techniques that human beings use to understand themselves. This investigation, then, can be split into two parts: the first dealing with the theme of death within Foucault's major historical books and its place within this greater cultural knowledge, and the second examining the roll of death within what Foucault calls ?technologies of the self.?


Malek Moazzam Doulat




Ford Research Endowment

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