The “Relations of Affect” and “the Spiritual”

Philosophy Today 65 (1):163-181 (2021)
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Abstract

In his book Foucault and Religion, Jeremy Carrette presents a compelling argument against Foucault’s genealogical method (what he terms “relations of force”). In brief, Carrette holds that while Foucault’s genealogical method effectively unmasked the origins of “rationality” and “madness,” it was less successful when explaining the materialization of “the spiritual.” Foucault’s analysis of spiritual practices is at best functional and, according to Carrette, fails to explain the psychophysical state of subjects engaged in religious customs. In the following paper, I argue that Carrette is correct; there are limitations to Foucault’s genealogical method, especially when explaining subjectivization processes, such as conversion experiences. However, I demonstrate that we can perform a successful genealogical investigation of the spiritual by adding an additional lens of analysis to “the relations of power” and “the relations of meaning” Foucault employs. I call this lens “the relations of affect.” I use this tool to explain Augustine’s transformative process, as observed in the saint’s Confessions.

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Brian Lightbody
Brock University

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