The aesthetics of existence in the work of Michel Foucault

Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (2):61-85 (1999)
Abstract
Foucault's analysis of an aesthetics of existence is presented as an instrument to practice ethical thought without the presupposition of an autonomous subject. The implications of Foucault's aesthetics of existence for ethical thought are traced to the work of Nietzsche. In Foucault's work, experiences of oneself are not a given, but are constituted in power relations and true-and-false games. In the interplay of truths and power relations, the individual constitutes a certain relationship to him- or herself. Foucault designated the relation to oneself and one's existence as the main area of ethical concern and the most important field where aesthetic values are to be applied. In his aesthetics of existence, he invited the individual to problematize the relationship with the self and by using 'self-techniques' to transform it into a work of art. The relation to intimate others, shaped as friendship, is crucial to this ethical-aesthetic approach. Key Words: aesthetics of existence • ethics • Foucault • friendship • Nietzsche • subjectivity.
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