The Philosophy of Foucault

The Philosophy of Foucault

The Philosophy of Foucault

The Philosophy of Foucault


An accessible and stimulating introduction to one of the most popular and influential thinkers of the years, Michel Foucault. It examines each of Foucault's key works such as: Madness and Civilization, The Archaeology of Knowledge, The Order of Things, Discipline and Punish and the multi-volume History of Sexuality.


Why study a philosopher, a philosophically oriented historian, a thinker? Why grapple with a body of thought that is difficult, often elusive? Why forsake the pleasures of sport, the company of friends, a novel or a videogame for the slow, patient activity of coming to understand a set of texts that, far from inviting one in, seem often designed to keep one at bay?

These are not idle questions. One might be told, in response to them, that the rigours of thought are good for the mind, that grappling with difficult concepts is bracing, or strengthening, or a sign of good character. These are, it seems to me, bad answers. Not that a person should not have a good mind or a good character. But why study philosophy in order to achieve these? Would mathematics, or physics, or the law not do just as well? There is nothing less rigorous about these disciplines than there is about philosophy. They offer challenges to the mind, and in addition training in something that might come in handy down the road.

If one is to study a philosophical figure, if one is, to paraphrase James Joyce, to forge one’s own soul in the smithy of their mind, there must be a better reason on offer than simply being told that conceptual difficulty is good for you. There must be something about the thinker’s being philosophical, or, in the case of Michel Foucault, at least philosophically oriented, that is itself compelling. That reason need not be practical, in the traditional sense of the term. It need not lead to a job, or a social position, or recognition by a broader public. Ideology aside, there is no reason to believe that these are all that people seek. The reason one might study a philosopher can be less goal-oriented, or more subtle. But, given the alternative ways of spending one’s time, the reason ought to be a good one.

The philosopher Gilles Deleuze tells us that:

a philosophical theory is an elaborately developed question, and
nothing else; by itself and in itself, it is not the resolution to a

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