Michel Foucault And The Cultiv Essay

1780 words - 7 pages

Michel Foucault: The Cultivation of the SelfMichel Foucault (1926-1984) spent much of the later part of his studies on the idea of the care of the self and cultivation of the self. He defined such care as using one's own reason to ascertain who one is and how he can be his best. Foucault takes several perspectives on this theme, from medical to phenomenological, to develop his focus on finding out who one is, the goal of the care of the self. Human's failure to attain and nurture this self results in the decay of this self.Foucault saw his writings on this and other concepts as part of a philosophy known as the art of living. The art of living in this sense means one whose main purpose is to be like no one else. As such, he felt he was directly useful to the public because he created new possibilities for life. His care for his own self allowed for the possibility that he could aid others in doing the same. He was trying to develop a way for one to work on himself, which would let one "invent a way of being that is still improbable". Foucault did not address himself to a broad audience; rather, he used his project of the are of the self as a model for oppressed minorities who had no voice of their own.Foucault was fascinated by what one or a group has to suppress and reject to form a positive conception of itself. He believed that our conception of ourselves as subjects depends on controlling or excluding whole classes of people who do not fit our Enlightened category of "normal". The same devices we use to understand and control these marginalized groups are also essential to understanding and controlling "normal" individuals.This practice is always executed by power. Therefore, who we are is itself the result of the exercise of this power. In this sense, power serves as the other side of knowledge. For Foucault, power produces knowledge and each one directly implies the other. It is impossible for power to be exercised without knowledge, and it is impossible for knowledge not to procure power. "There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations." We must know what something is to have power over it, just as to know something is to have power over it. Knowledge, therefore, is power.Though power comes through individuals, most often it is not under their control. Power creates subjects; it is not exercised by them. Efforts to rationalize or humanize power only result in an exercise of new forms of it by creating new ways of knowing what subjects are. New forms of both power (control) and knowledge go together.However, the subject or individual does not disappear, but his "determined unity" is called into question. Foucault never denied that the subject exists, although he sometimes fictionalized the self in his writings. This self is not metaphysically free, but neither is it actually a fiction. The inevitable...

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