Foucault's Cartesian Meditations

Abstract
For a long time readers of Descartes’s Meditations have argued about whether or not they are to be taken as spiritual exercises. In this paper I show that the later work of Michel Foucault provides us with a new way of approaching this problem. To situate Foucault’sapproach and to reveal his originality, I summarize two influential discussions of the meditational character of Descartes’s Meditations. I then turn to the work of Foucault, give a brief explanation of his idiosyncratic definition of spiritual exercises, and show how his approach permits a deeper appreciation of how the Meditations, as meditations, operate. My argument, following Foucault, is that reading the Meditations as spiritual exercises allows us a fuller grasp of the text precisely because it displaces our “Cartesian” form of subjectivity
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