Freud, Foucault and 'the dialogue with unreason'

Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (6):29-66 (1999)
The standard interpretations of Foucault's intellectual biography usually present Sartre as his major adversary. Though it would be difficult to underestimate the importance of Sartre for Foucault's development, this paper argues that Foucault was involved in an even more intense and deeper contest with Freud. Indeed, Freud was Foucault's principal adversary and, throughout his career, Foucault was trying to formulate a counter-project to psychoanalysis. The author attempts to demonstrate this claim by examining Foucault's early psychological writings, Madness and Civilization, his encounter with Kant in The Order of Things and The History of Sexuality. He argues, moreover, that Foucault had articulated a project, namely, 'the dialogue with unreason', which not only could have provided a meeting point for his project and Freud's but can still provide a way of getting beyond the exhausted debate between the advocates of the Enlightenment and the Anti-Enlightenment. Because he could never give up the temptation to valorize transgression, however, Foucault was unable to pursue the dialogue with unreason in a systematic way. Key Words: Foucault • Freud • psychoanalysis • reason.
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