Foucault and the Historiography of Early Hellenistic Philosophy

In his 1981–82 lectures The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Michel Foucault claims that a significant portion of the modern historiography of ancient philosophy tends to discredit the ethical framework of epimeleia heautou (“care of the self”). The prevalence of the thematic analysis of knowledge in the historiography of ancient philosophy has an overshadowing effect on the theme of care of the self. Taking Foucault’s claim as a point of departure, the aim of this paper is twofold. First, the paper provides a genealogy of the early Hellenistic Academy, from Polemo to Arcesilaus, which standard historiographical accounts of early Hellenistic philosophy preclude. Second, the paper demonstrates that for Arcesilaus, the alleged pioneer of what modern historiography has designated the Academy’s epistemological scepticism, philosophy is not restricted to a continual search for knowledge at a theoretically rarefied level of analyzing discursive statements. This paper situates Arcesilaus’ opposition to early Stoic epistemology within the framework of Academic epimeleia heautou, and defends the thesis that under Arcesilaus the Hellenistic Academy undergoes a shift in the practice of care of the self.
Keywords Foucault, care of the self, historiography, ancient Greek skepticism
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