The Confessing Animal in Foucault and Wittgenstein

Journal of Religious Ethics 34 (4):533 - 559 (2006)
In "The History of Sexuality", Foucault maintains that "Western man has become a confessing animal" (1990, 59), thus implying that "man" was not always such a creature. On a related point, Wittgenstein suggests that "man is a ceremonial animal" (1996, 67); here the suggestion is that human beings are, by their very nature, ritualistically inclined. In this paper I examine this crucial difference in emphasis, first by reconstructing Foucault's "genealogy" of confession, and subsequently by exploring relevant facets of Wittgenstein's later thinking. While there are significant correlations between Foucault and Wittgenstein, an important disparity emerges in relation to the question of the "natural." By critically analyzing this, I show how Wittgenstein's minimal naturalism provides an important corrective to Foucault's more extravagant claims. By implication, we see why any radical relativist, historicist, and/or constructivist position becomes untenable on Wittgensteinian grounds, even though Wittgenstein himself is often read as promoting such views
Keywords historicism  Wittgenstein  Foucault  naturalism  confession  genealogy
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 22,585
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 36 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
David G. Stern (2004). Weininger and Wittgenstein on ‘Animal Psychology.’. In David G. Stern & Béla Szabados (eds.), Wittgenstein Reads Weininger. Cambridge University Press 169.
Bob Robinson (2011). Michel Foucault: Ethics. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
B. Plant (2011). Welcoming Dogs: Levinas and 'the Animal' Question. Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (1):49-71.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

14 ( #279,935 of 1,938,703 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #216,993 of 1,938,703 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.