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About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self

Lectures at Dartmouth College, 1980

Michel Foucault

About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self

Michel Foucault

160 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2015
Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 9780226188546 Published December 2015
E-book $10.00 to $18.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226266299 Published December 2015
In 1980, Michel Foucault began a vast project of research on the relationship between subjectivity and truth, an examination of conscience, confession, and truth-telling that would become a crucial feature of his life-long work on the relationship between knowledge, power, and the self. The lectures published here offer one of the clearest pathways into this project, contrasting Greco-Roman techniques of the self with those of early Christian monastic culture in order to uncover, in the latter, the historical origin of many of the features that still characterize the modern subject. They are accompanied by a public discussion and debate as well as by an interview with Michael Bess, all of which took place at the University of California, Berkeley, where Foucault delivered an earlier and slightly different version of these lectures.

Foucault analyzes the practices of self-examination and confession in Greco-Roman antiquity and in the first centuries of Christianity in order to highlight a radical transformation from the ancient Delphic principle of “know thyself” to the monastic precept of “confess all of your thoughts to your spiritual guide.” His aim in doing so is to retrace the genealogy of the modern subject, which is inextricably tied to the emergence of the “hermeneutics of the self”—the necessity to explore one’s own thoughts and feelings and to confess them to a spiritual director—in early Christianity. According to Foucault, since some features of this Christian hermeneutics of the subject still determine our contemporary “gnoseologic” self, then the genealogy of the modern subject is both an ethical and a political enterprise, aiming to show that the “self” is nothing but the historical correlate of a series of technologies built into our history. Thus, from Foucault’s perspective, our main problem today is not to discover what “the self” is, but to try to analyze and change these technologies in order to change its form. 
Review Quotes
Amy Allen, author of The Politics of Our Selves
“This is fascinating and important material that will prove invaluable to scholars of Foucault’s work.” 
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
“These lectures certainly indicate the continuities in Foucault’s thought from the genealogical analyses of the 1970s, principally Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, with his later studies associated with the care of the self. The publishers of this volume have provided a fluid and carefully annotated transcription of four texts that deepen our understanding of Foucault’s idiosyncratic use of ancient ethics and what he thought we might learn from it.”
 
 
Choice
“Provides readers with a concise statement of the stakes of Foucault’s later thought.” 
 
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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