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The Force of Truth

Critique, Genealogy, and Truth-Telling in Michel Foucault

The Force of Truth

Critique, Genealogy, and Truth-Telling in Michel Foucault

A groundbreaking examination of Michel Foucault's history of truth.

Many blame Michel Foucault for our post-truth and conspiracy-laden society. In this provocative work, Daniele Lorenzini argues that such criticism fundamentally misunderstands the philosopher’s project. Foucault did not question truth itself but what Lorenzini calls “the force of truth,” or how some truth claims are given the power to govern our conduct while others are not. This interest, Lorenzini shows, drove Foucault to articulate a new ethics and politics of truth-telling precisely in order to evade the threat of relativism. The Force of Truth explores this neglected dimension of Foucault’s project by putting his writings on regimes of truth and parrhesia in conversation with early analytic philosophy and by drawing out the “possibilizing” elements of Foucault’s genealogies that remain vital for practicing critique today.

192 pages | 2 tables | 6 x 9

History: History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Philosophy: General Philosophy, Logic and Philosophy of Language, Political Philosophy


"Lorenzini has established himself as the most brilliant interpreter of the work of Michel Foucault in his generation. Yet, even beyond this distinction, he has learned, as few people have, to use Foucault's work and perspective to approach topics that Foucault himself never discussed. Moreover, in his extraordinary genealogy of truth, presented in this book, Lorenzini brings together Foucault's writings with those of J. L. Austin and Stanley Cavell, among others, to give us a remarkable new way to think about some of the central issues concerning the idea of truth. Anyone who believes that analytic philosophy and continental philosophy cannot speak to one another can read this book as a superb example of how these two traditions of philosophy can mutually contribute, when read together, to the understanding of fundamental philosophical problems. If Lorenzini is the future of philosophy, philosophy is in excellent hands."

Arnold I. Davidson, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"In this urgent study, Lorenzini offers a powerful corrective to stubborn criticism of Foucault as a postmodern architect of the post-truth age. With stunning command of Foucault’s corpus, Lorenzini reconstructs Foucault’s history of truth as a political epistemology for our troubled times. This extraordinary book reshapes how we should understand—and resist—lying, disinformation, and other forms of political untruth."

Verena Erlenbusch-Anderson, Syracuse University

"This groundbreaking book refutes the dominant view of Foucault as a relativist and elevates the debate about his notion of truth to a new philosophical level. With exceptional clarity, Lorenzini develops an ethics and politics of truth-telling that is essential reading for everyone who seeks to take responsibility for their claims about the truth—in both theory and practice.”

Martin Hägglund, Yale University

“In this brilliant and provocative book, Lorenzini upends the conventional way that critics read Foucault as a precursor to our post-truth society. Through a meticulous reading of the Collège de France lectures, Lorenzini masterfully shows how Foucault’s lifelong passion for truth and truth-telling culminates in a powerful theory of truth as a political and ethical practice. A veritable tour de force.”

Bernard E. Harcourt, Columbia University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Writing the History of Truth
A History of Truth That Does Not Rely on “the Truth”
Toward an Ethics and Politics of Truth-Telling
The Force of Words and the Force of Truth
1. Truth-Event
“A Little History of Truth in General”
The Emergence of the Alethurgic Subject
Confessional Sciences
2. Regimes of Truth
Truth Obligations?
Games and Regimes of Truth
A Critical (An)archaeology
Language Games and Games of Truth
The Value of Truth
Regimes of Truth and Spirituality
3. Truth as Force
Cavell, Austin, and the Perlocutionary
Parrhesia as Speech Act
Unpredictability, Freedom, and Criticism
Risk and Courage
Transparency, or Parrhesia and Rhetoric
4. Dramatics of Truth
Sincerity, Authenticity, Confession
Putting the Truth to the Test of Life
5. Critique and Possibilizing Genealogy
Beyond the Vindicatory-Subversive Dichotomy
Foucault, Habermas, and the Question of Normativity
The Genealogy of Critique
Genealogy and We-Making
Conclusion: Rethinking Critique

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