Philosophical parrhesia as aesthetics of existence

Continental Philosophy Review 39 (2):113-134 (2006)
According to some interpreters, Foucault's encounter with the Greek and Roman ethics led him to reconsider his earlier work and to turn away from politics. Drawing mostly from Foucault's last and hitherto unpublished lecture course, this paper argues that Foucault's turn to ethics should not be interpreted as a turn away from his previous work, but rather as its logical continuation and an attempt to resolve some of the outstanding questions. I argue that the 1984 lectures on parrhesia should be interpreted as Foucault's philosophical apology, as an attempt to defend himself against the charges of moral and epistemological nihilism, which were raised in response to his earlier work. In his last lectures, the Nietzschean Foucault somewhat surprisingly describes his earlier work as authentic Socratic philosophy and as ethical practice of freedom. In the conclusion, I assess the plausibility of Foucault's apology and speculate in which direction his work might have developed, had it not been cut off by his death.
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