Foucault and Heidegger: Critical Encounters

Foucault and Heidegger: Critical Encounters

Foucault and Heidegger: Critical Encounters

Foucault and Heidegger: Critical Encounters

Synopsis

Michel Foucault and Martin Heidegger are two of the most important intellectual figures of the twentieth century, and yet there are significant, largely unexplored questions about the relationship between their projects. Foucault and Heidegger stages a crucial critical encounter between these two thinkers; in doing so, it clarifies not only the complexities of the Heidegger-Foucault relationship, but also their relevance to questions about truth and nihilism, acquiescence and resistance, and technology and agency that are central to debates in contemporary thought. These essays examine topics ranging from Heidegger's and Foucault's intellectual forebears to their respective understanding of the Enlightenment, modernity, and technology, to their conceptions of power and the political.

Excerpt

“Das 'Subjekt' ist eine Fiktion, ” Nietzsche declares in aphorism 370 of Der Wille zur Macht. There is no such thing as an ego, a unitary center of personhood that can be appraised and approved for its virtue and wisdom or blamed for its premeditated transgressions and irresponsible beliefs. Subjectivity does not exist. Despite Nietzsche's pervasive influence, however, the question of subjectivity—the ontological nature, the ethical status, and the epistemological significance of the human subject—has been a preeminent theme in Continental philosophy for the entirety of the twentieth century. Virtually all Continental philosophers have found it necessary to address the question. Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault are not exceptional in that regard. Both thinkers take up the question as a central issue in their work; both have a great deal to say about subjectivity and its philosophical place.

On the face of it, however, the two men's conceptions of subjectivity seem quite divergent, particularly when one looks at the earlier work of Heidegger alongside the later work of Foucault. in Sein und Zeit, Heidegger undertakes an analytic of Dasein, a systematic phenomenological investigation of individual human existence, while Foucault (in texts such as Surveiller et punir, for example) eschews any such overarching ontological project and pluralizes subjectivity to speak of historically . . .

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