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    Contributors | September 15, 2015

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The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the College de France, 1982-1983


The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the College de France, 1982-1983 Cover




5 JANUARY 1983
First hour

Remarks on method.~Study of Kants text: What is Enlightenment? ~ Conditions of publication: journals. ~ The encounter between Christian Aufklärung and Jewish Haskala: freedom of conscience. ~ Philosophy and present reality. ~ The question of the Revolution. ~ Two critical filiations.

FIRST OF ALL I would like to tell you how much I appreciate your regular attendance. I would also like to say that it is often rather difficult giving a series of lectures like this without the possibility of comebacks or discussion, and not knowing whether what one is saying finds an echo in those who are working on a thesis or a masters degree, whether it provides them with possibilities for reflection and work. On the other hand, you know that in this institution, where the rules are very liberal, we cannot give closed seminars, reserved for just a few auditors. So I wont be doing that this year. All the same, what I would like, not so much for you but selfishly for myself, is to be able to meet, Off-Broadway, outside of the lectures, with those of you who could possibly discuss the subjects I will be talking about this year, or that I have talked about elsewhere and previously. So, maybe we can wait until one or two lectures have taken place before organizing this small group, or at any rate this small informal meeting external to the lectures themselves and to the institution strictly speaking. Either next week or in two weeks time I will suggest a time and place. Unfortunately I do not want to offer this to everyone, since we would end up back in the [present] situation. But, once again, I would ask those working on something precise in the university framework and who would like the possibility of discussion, that, if they wish, we meet together at a place I will suggest. Once again, this is not something exclusive directed against the general public, which is absolutely entitled, like any French citizen, to benefit, if one can put it like that, from the teaching given here.
I think this years lectures will be a bit disjointed and scattered. I would like to take up some of the themes I have cut across or touched on over the last years, even over the ten or maybe twelve years I have been teaching here. As a general indication, I would just like to remind you of some, I dont say themes or principles, but reference points that I have fixed for myself in my work.
In this general project, which goes under the sign, if not the title, of “the history of thought,”1 my problem has been to do something rather different from the quite legitimate activity of most historians of ideas. In any case, I wanted to differentiate myself from two entirely legitimate methods. I wanted to differentiate myself first of all from what we may call, and is called, the history of mentalities, which, to characterize it completely schematically, would be a history situated on an axis going from the analysis of actual forms of behavior to the possible accompanying expressions which may precede them, follow them, translate them, prescribe them, disguise them, or justify them, and so forth. On the other hand, I also wanted to differentiate myself from what could be called a history of representations or of representational systems, that is to say, a history which would have, could have, or may have two objectives. One would be the analysis of representational functions. By “the analysis of representational functions” I mean the analysis of the possible role played by representations either in relation to the object represented, or in relation to the subject who represents them to him or herself—lets say an analysis of ideologies. And then I think the other pole of a possible analysis of representations is the analysis of the representational values of a system of representations, that is to say, the analysis of representations in terms of a knowledge (connaissance)—of a content of knowledge, or of a rule, or a form of knowledge—which is taken to be a criterion of truth, or at any rate a truth-reference point in relation to which one can determine the representational value of this or that system of thought understood as a system of representations of a given object. Well, between these two possibilities, these two themes—that of a history of mentalities and that of a history of representations—what I have tried to do is a history of thought. And by “thought” I meant an analysis of what could be called focal points of experience in which forms of a possible knowledge (savoir), normative frameworks of behavior for individuals, and potential modes of existence for possible subjects are linked together. These three elements—forms of a possible knowledge, normative frameworks of behavior, and potential modes of existence for possible subjects—these three things, or rather their joint articulation, can be called, I think, “focal point of experience.”
Anyway, this was the perspective in which, a long time ago, I tried to analyze something like madness,2 which, for me, was not to be taken as an unchanging object throughout history on which systems of representation with variable representational functions and values have been brought to bear. Nor, for me, was this history a way of studying attitudes towards madness that may have existed down the centuries or at a given point in time. Rather, it involved trying to study madness as experience within our culture, and grasping madness, first of all, as a point from which a series of more or less heterogeneous forms of knowledge were formed whose forms of development had to be analyzed: madness as the matrix of bodies of knowledge which may be of a strictly medical nature, but which may also be psychiatric, psychological, sociological, and so on. Second, to the extent that madness is a form of knowledge, it was also a set of norms, both norms against which madness could be picked out as a phenomenon of deviance within society, and, at the same time, norms of behavior for normal individuals, for doctors, psychiatric personnel, and so on in relation to this phenomenon of madness. Finally, third, this perspective involved studying madness insofar as this experience of madness defined the constitution of a certain mode of being of the normal subject, as opposed to and in relation to the mad subject. It was these three aspects, these three dimensions of the experience of madness (form of knowledge, matrix of forms of behavior, constitution of the subjects modes of being) that I more or less successfully and effectively tried to link together.
We can say that the work I tried to do after this consisted in studying each of these three areas in turn in order to see what further work needed to be done on the methods and concepts for analyzing them, first as dimensions of an experience, and then insofar as they were to be linked together.
First of all I tried to study the formation of forms of knowledge with particular regard to seventeenth and eighteenth century empirical sciences like natural history, general grammar, and economics. For me, these were only an example for the analysis of the formation of forms of knowledge (savoirs).3 It seemed to me that if one really wanted to study experience as the matrix for the formation of forms of knowledge, one should not analyze the development or progress of particular bodies of knowledge, but rather one should identify the discursive practices which were able to constitute the matrices of possible bodies of knowledge, and study the rules, the game of true and false, and, more generally, the forms of veridiction in these discursive practices. In short, it was a matter of shifting the axis of the history of the contents of knowledge towards the analysis of forms of knowledge, of the discursive practices that organize and constitute the matrix element of these forms of knowledge, and studying these discursive practices as regulated forms of veridiction. For some time I have tried to bring about a shift from the contents of knowledge to forms of knowledge, and from forms of knowledge to discursive practices and rules of veridiction.
Second, it was then a matter of analyzing, lets say, the normative matrices of behavior. Here the shift did not consist in analyzing Power with a capital “P”, or even institutions of power, or the general or institutional forms of domination. Rather, it meant studying the techniques and procedures by which one sets about conducting the conduct of others. That is to say, I tried to pose the question of norms of behavior first of all in terms of power, and of power that one exercises, and to analyze this power as a field of procedures of government. Here again the shift consisted in passing from analysis of the norm to analysis of the exercise of power, and passing from analysis of the exercise of power to the procedures of, lets say, governmentality. In this case my example was criminality and the disciplines.4
Finally, the third area involved analyzing the constitution of the subjects mode of being. Here, instead of referring to a theory of the subject, it seemed to me that one should try to analyze the different forms by which the individual is led to constitute him or herself as subject. Taking the example of sexual behavior and the history of sexual morality,5 I tried to see how and through what concrete forms of the relation to self the individual was called upon to constitute him or herself as the moral subject of his or her sexual conduct. In other words, once again this involved bringing about a shift from the question of the subject to the analysis of forms of subjectivation, and to the analysis of these forms of subjectivation through the techniques/technologies of the relation to self, or, if you like, through what could be called the pragmatics of self.
Replacing the history of knowledge with the historical analysis of forms of veridiction, replacing the history of domination with the historical analysis of procedures of governmentality, and replacing the theory of the subject or the history of subjectivity with the historical analysis of the pragmatics of self and the forms it has taken, are the different approaches by which I have tried to define to some degree the possibility of the history of what could be called “experiences.” The experience of madness, the experience of disease, the experience of criminality, and the experience of sexuality are, I think, important focal points of experiences in our culture. This then is the route I have tried to follow and that quite frankly it was necessary to try to reconstruct for you, if only to take a bearing on where we are. But you knew this already.b
Having explored these three dimensions somewhat, it was natural that in the course of these explorations, which I systematize rather arbitrarily since I will come back to them, certain things were dropped or left to one side which nevertheless appeared to me to be interesting and maybe posed new problems. What I would like to do this year is retrace some of the paths already followed, taking up again a few points, such as, for example, what I said to you last year about parrsia, true discourse in the political realm. It seemed to me that this study would make it possible to see, to tighten up a bit, the problem of the relations between government of self and government of others, to see the genesis, the genealogy, if not of political discourse in general, the object of which is essentially government by the Prince, at least of a certain form of political discourse whose object would be government of the Prince, of the Princes soul by the counselor, the philosopher, the pedagogue responsible for forming his soul. True discourse, discourse of truth addressed to the Prince and the Princes soul will be one of my first themes. I would also like to take up the things I said, two or three years ago I think, concerning the art of government in the sixteenth century.6 I am not sure exactly what I will do, but I would like to take up again these still open dossiers. I say “dossiers,” a very solemn term, but it is really a matter of tracks which I have just come across and followed for a while, and then left to one side, poorly marked out.
This week I would like to start with, how to put it, not exactly an excursus: a little epigraph (exergue). As epigraph, I would like to study a text which may not be situated exactly within the reference points I will choose for most of this year. Nevertheless, it appears to me to be very exactly in line with, and to formulate in rigorous terms, one of the important problems that I would like to talk about, which is precisely this relationship between the government of self and the government of others. And, on the other hand, it seems to me that it not only talks about this subject itself, but it does so in a way with which—without too much, [or rather], with a little vanity—I can associate myself. It is a text which is something of a blazon, a fetish for me, which I have already spoken about several times, and which I would like to examine a bit more closely today. This text, if you like, bears some relation to what I am talking about, and I would really like the way in which I talk about it to have some connection with it. The text is, of course, Kants Was ist Aufklärung?
As you know, Kant wrote the text in September 1784 and it was published in the Berlinische Monatsschrift in December 1784. First of all I would just like to recall very briefly the conditions and dates of its publication. There is absolutely nothing extraordinary in Kant publishing a text like this in a journal. You know that a large part of his theoretical activity consisted in publishing articles, reviews, and contributions in certain journals. It was in the Berlinische Monatsschrift that, the previous month, November 1784, he published a text which, somewhat expanded, became the Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View.7 The following year, 1785, he published his Definition of the concept of race8 in the same journal; in 1786 he also published his Conjectural Beginning of Human History in this journal.9 He also wrote in other journals: in the Allgemeine Literaturzeitung he published a review of a book by Herder;10 in the Teutsche Merkur in 1788 he published On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy,11 and so on.
However, the reason we should keep in mind the fact that the text was published in a journal is that, as you will see, the text on the Aufklärung brings into play, as one of its central concepts, or as one of the sets of concepts, the notion of public, of Publikum. This notion of Publikum means, first of all, the concrete, institutional, or at any rate established relationship between the writer (the qualified writer, translated in French as savant; Gelehrter; man of culture), and the reader (considered as any individual). The function of this relationship between reader and writer, the analysis of this relationship—the conditions under which this relationship can and should be established and developed—will constitute the essential axis of Kants analysis of Aufklärung. In a sense, his notion of Aufklärung, the way he analyzes it, is nothing other than the explanation of this relationship between the Gelehrter (the man of culture, the savant who writes) and the reader who reads. Now it is obvious that in this relationship between the writer … “it is obvious,” no it is not obvious. What is interesting is that in the eighteenth century this relationship between writer and reader—I will come back to the content of this relationship later, I am just pointing out its importance—was not established so much through the university, which goes without saying, nor was it established through the book, but much more through those forms of expression which were at the same time forms of intellectual communities constituted by journals and by the societies or academies which published them. It is these societies, [these] academies, and these journals also, which give a concrete form to the relationship between, lets say, expertise and reading in the free and universal form of the circulation of written discourse. Consequently, these journals, societies, and academies constitute the authority—so important historically, in the eighteenth century, and to which Kant attaches such importance in his text—which [corresponds to] this notion of public. The public was not, of course, the university public which is established during the nineteenth century when the universities are reformed. Nor, obviously, is it the kind of public we think of today when we carry out sociological analyses of the media. The public is a reality established and delineated by the existence of institutions like learned societies, academies, and journals, and what circulates within this framework. One of the interesting things about the text, and at any rate the reason I was keen to mention that it was published in this kind of journal, that it was part of this kind of publication, is that it puts the notion of the public, to which the publication is addressed, at the very heart of its analysis. This was the first reason for stressing this context, this problem of the time and place of the text.
The second reason for stressing the time and place is the fact that in September 1784 Mendelssohn had responded to the same question “Was ist Aufklärung?” (what is the Aufklärung, what is les Lumières, what is Enlightenment?) in this same journal, the Berlinische Monatsshrift. But in fact Kant, whose response is only published in December, had not been able to read Mendelssohns response, which appeared in September at the same time as Kant was finishing writing his own text. So, if you like, there are two answers to the same question, two answers appearing simultaneously, or barely separated in time, but each unaware of the other. The juxtaposition of these two texts, one by Mendelssohn and the other by Kant, is obviously interesting. Not that it was at that moment, or for that reason, responding to this precise question, that the famous encounter took place between the, lets say, philosophical Aufklärung, or the Aufklärung with a Christian background, and the Haskala12 (the Jewish Aufklärung), which is so important in the cultural history of Europe. You know that we can in fact date the encounter between the Christian, or in part Protestant Aufklärung and the Jewish Aufklärung from a good thirty years earlier, around 1750, lets just say, for the sake of convenience, 1754-55, when Mendelssohn meets Lessing. Mendelssohns Entretiens philosophique date from 1755,13 so thirty years before this double response to the question of the Aufklärung. A translation of Mendelssohns Jerusalem appeared recently with a very interesting preface.14 [There is a] text, which I recall partly for amusement, which is very interesting for seeing, for gauging something of the effect of astonishment and—we cannot say of scandal exactly—of amazement produced by the sudden emergence in the German cultural world, in the German public defined in the way I have just described, of someone who was a little hunchbacked Jew. It is the letter written by Johan Wilhelm Gleim, who writes: “The author of the Entretiens philosophiques [which Moses had signed as author, and which some wondered if it really could have been written by a Jew and if it may have been written by Lessing himself or someone else, and which Gleim authenticates; M.F.] is a real Jew who, without a teacher, has acquired very extensive knowledge in the sciences.”15 There is a phrase, then, pointing out that he cannot have acquired all this knowledge on the basis of his Jewish culture, but that he has only been able to acquire them without a teacher, that is to say through a departure from his own origin and culture, and by a sort of insertion, an immaculate birth within the universality of culture. And this Jew “who, without a teacher, has acquired very extensive knowledge in all the sciences” has even so “earned his living since his youth in a Jewish trade.” This text dates from 1755 and marks the sudden emergence, [or rather] the encounter, the conjunction of the Jewish Aufklärung and what we may call the Christian Aufklärung. A prudent marriage, you can see, in which the Jewish partner, while being clearly marked out as one who earns his living in a Jewish trade, can only be accepted and recognized on condition that he has acquired very extensive knowledge in all the sciences without a teacher.
Lets leave this encounter of 1755 aside. I come back to 1784 and these two texts on Aufklärung by Mendelssohn and Kant. It seems to me that their importance is that both Kant and Mendelssohn very clearly posit not only the possibility, not only the right, but also the necessity of an absolute freedom of not only conscience, but also of expression in relation to anything that might be a religious practice considered as a necessarily private activity. In a text prior to the period from September to December 1784 when they publish their texts on Aufklärung, Kant wrote to Mendelssohn concerning Jerusalem, which had just appeared, and said to him: “You have been able to reconcile your religion with a freedom of conscience that one would never have thought possible [for your religion; M.F.], and that no other can boast. At the same time you have explained the need for unlimited freedom of conscience with regard to all religion in such depth and so clearly that on our side too the Church will have to ask itself how to purify its religion of everything that may oppress conscience or weigh upon it, the which cannot fail finally to unite men in what concerns the essential points of religion.”16 So, Kant praises Mendelssohn because the latter has clearly shown and emphasized that for him the use of his religion could only be private, that in no way could he practice either proselytism—Kant does not refer to this in this text, but Mendelssohn lays enormous stress on it—or authority in relation to that community of a private nature within society. And that attitude of Jewish thought with regard to the Jewish religion, or anyway that attitude of the thought of a Jew with regard to his own religion, should be of help, Kant says, for the attitude that all Christians should adopt with regard to their religion.c
The third reason this text appears interesting to me, apart, then, from this reflection on the field of the public, and apart from this encounter within the public field between the Christian and Jewish Aufklärung, is that it seems to me—and this is what I especially want to emphasize—that in this text a new type of question appears in the field of philosophical reflection. Of course, this is certainly neither the first text in the history of philosophy, nor even the only one by Kant to take as its theme a question concerning history, or the question of history. Just staying with Kant, you are well aware that you find texts by him which put to history a question of origin: there is, for example, the text on conjectures, hypotheses on the beginnings of human history;17 there is also, up to a point, the text on the definition of the concept of race.18 Other texts put to history the question, not of origin but, lets say, of its completion, its point of fulfillment: in the same year, 1784, there is the Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View.19 Finally, other texts raise a question of the inner finality organizing historical processes—the historical process in its inner structure and permanent finality—such as the text devoted to the use of teleological principles.20 All these questions—of beginning, fulfillment, finality, and teleology—run through Kants analyses concerning history. It seems to me that the text on the Aufklärung is rather different from those I have just mentioned, for it does not pose any of these questions directly. There is no question of origin, of course, and, as you will see, and despite appearances, there is no question concerning the completion of history, its point of fulfillment. And the question of the immanent teleology of the process of history is posed only in a relatively discreet, almost lateral way. To tell the truth, you will see that it avoids even this question.
In fact, the question which seems to me to appear for the first time in the texts by Kant—I do not say the only time, we will find another example later—is the question of the present, of present reality. It is the question: What is happening today? What is happening now? What is this “now” in which we all live and which is the site, the point [from which] I am writing? Of course, this is not the first time in philosophical reflection that we find references to the present, at least as a determinate historical situation which may have a value for philosophical reflection. After all, at the beginning of the Discourse on Method, when Descartes describes his own itinerary and the set of philosophical decisions he has made, both on his own and philosophys behalf, he refers quite explicitly in fact to what may be regarded as a historical situation in the realm of knowledge (connaissance), of the sciences, of the institution of knowledge (savoir) of his time. But we can say that this sort of reference—and we could find the same thing in Leibniz for example—always involves finding grounds for a philosophical decision within this configuration designated as present. I do not think you will find the following kind of question in Descartes or Leibniz: So what exactly is this present to which I belong? Now it seems to me that the question to which Mendelssohn responded, to which Kant responds—and does so because he was asked: it was a public question—is different. It is not simply: What is it in the present situation that can determine this or that philosophical decision? The question focuses on what this present is. First of all, among all the elements of the present, the question focuses on the definition of one particular element that is to be recognized, distinguished, and deciphered. What is it in the present that currently has meaning for philosophical reflection? Second, the answer that Kant tries to give to the questions involves showing how this element is the bearer or expression of a process which concerns thought, knowledge, philosophy. Finally, third, within this reflection on this element of the present which is the bearer of or which reveals a process, what is to be shown is in what respect and how the person who speaks as a thinker, a savant, a philosopher, is himself a part of this process. But it is even more complicated than this. He has to show not only how he is part of this process, but how, as such, as savant, philosopher, or thinker, he has a role in this process in which he is thus both an element and an actor.
In short, it seems to me that in this text by Kant we see the appearance of the question of the present as a philosophical event to which the philosopher who speaks of it belongs. Fine, if we wish to consider philosophy as a form of discursive practice with its own history, then with this interplay between the question “What is the Aufklärung?” and the answer Kant gives, it seems to me that we see philosophy—and I dont think Im forcing things too much in saying that it is for the first time—becoming the surface of emergence of its own present discursive reality; a present reality which it questions as an event whose philosophical meaning, value, and singularity it has to express, and as an event in which it has to find both its own raison dêtre and the foundation of what it says. And for this reason we see that philosophical practice, or rather the philosopher presenting his philosophical discourse cannot avoid the question of him being part of this present. That is to say, the question will no longer be one of his adherence to a doctrine or a tradition, or of his membership of a human community in general, but a question about him being part of a present, about his membership of a particular “we” if you like, which is linked, to a greater or lesser extent, to a cultural ensemble characteristic of his contemporary reality. This “we” has to become, or is in the process of becoming, the object of the philosophers own reflection. By the same token, it becomes impossible for the philosopher to dispense with an interrogation of his singular membership of this “we.”
It seems to me that philosophy as the surface of emergence of a present reality, as a questioning of the philosophical meaning of the present reality of which it is a part, and philosophy as the philosophers questioning of this “we” to which he belongs and in relation to which he has to situate himself, is a distinctive feature of philosophy as a discourse of modernity and on modernity. I would put it in the following way if you like. Of course, the question of modernity was not introduced into European culture with this text. You are well aware of how, leaving the rest aside, the question of modernity was raised from at least the sixteenth century, throughout the seventeenth century, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century. However, speaking very schematically, I would say that in classical culture the question of modernity had been posed in terms of a longitudinal axis. That is to say, the question of modernity was posed as a question concerning the polarity between Antiquity and modernity. That is to say, the question of modernity arose either in terms of an authority to be accepted or rejected (what authority to accept? what model to follow? etcetera), or in the correlative form of a comparative evaluation: Are the Ancients superior to the Moderns? Are we living in a period of decadence? It seems to me that the question of modernity arose with the question of what authority was to be accepted and the question of the evaluation or comparison of values in this polarity of Antiquity and modernity. Now I think that with Kant—and it seems to me that we can see this very clearly in this text on the Aufklärung—a new way of posing the question of modernity appears or surfaces, which is no longer in a longitudinal relationship to the Ancients, but in what could be called a sagittal relationship or, if you like, a vertical relationship of the discourse to its own present reality. The discourse has to take its own present reality into account in order, [first], to find its own place in it, second to express its meaning, and third to designate and specify the mode of action, the mode of effectuation that it realizes within this present reality. What is my present reality? What is the meaning of this present reality? And what am I doing when I speak of this present reality? It seems to me that this new questioning about modernity consists in this.
This is all very schematic. It is, once again, a track to be explored more carefully. It seems to me that we should try to undertake the genealogy, not so much of the notion of modernity, but of modernity as a question. In any case, if I take Kants text as marking the point of emergence of this question, it is of course because it is itself part of a broad and important historical process whose scope should be assessed. And an interesting line to pursue in the study of the eighteenth century in general, but more precisely of what is called the Aufklärung, would seem to me to be the fact that the Aufklärung names itself the Aufklärung. That is to say, we are dealing with an undoubtedly very singular cultural process which very quickly became aware of itself in a certain fashion, by naming itself and situating itself in relation to its past, future, and present, by giving the name of Aufklärung to the process, or rather to the operations that this movement itself must effectuate within its own present. After all, is not the Aufklärung the first epoch to name itself and which, instead of simply following the old custom or tradition of describing itself as a period of decadence, prosperity, or splendor, etcetera, gives itself the name of a particular event, the Aufklärung, which arises from a general history of thought, reason, and knowledge, and within which precisely the Aufklärung has its role to play? The Aufklärung is a period, it is a period which designates itself, formulates its own motto, its own precept, and says what it has to do, as much in relation to the general history of thought, reason, and knowledge as in relation to its own present and to the bodies and forms of knowledge, ignorance, illusion, and institutions, etcetera in which it can recognize its historical situation. Aufklärung is a name, a precept, and a motto. And this is precisely what we see in this text “What is Aufklärung?”
Finally, the fourth reason I would like to lay stress on this text (which you can take as a first reference point) is that Kants interrogation of the Aufklärung—which thus belongs to the general context of the Aufklärung itself, that is to say, of a cultural process which designates itself, says what it is and what it has to do—did not remain localized within the eighteenth century or even within the process of the Aufklärung. In this question of the Aufklärung we see one of the first manifestations of a certain way of philosophizing which has had a long history over the following two centuries. After all, it does seem to me that one of the major functions of what is called “modern” philosophy—whose beginning and development can be situated at the very end of the eighteenth century and in the nineteenth century—one of its essential functions is questioning itself about its own present reality. We could follow the entire trajectory of the question of philosophy questioning itself about its own present reality from the end of the eighteenth century down through the nineteenth century.
The only thing that I would like to stress for the moment is that Kant did not forget the question to which he responded in 1784, and which was put to him from outside. He did not forget it, and he raises it again and tries to reply to it anew with regard to another event, which was also one of those self-referring events, if you like, which constantly questioned itself. This event was, of course, the French Revolution. In 1798 Kant writes a kind of sequel to the 1784 text. In 1784 he posed the question, or tried to reply to the question put to him: What is the Aufklärung of which we are a part? In 1798 he replies to a question that he asks himself. To tell the truth he replies to a question raised by contemporary reality, but that since at least 1794 was also being posed by the whole of philosophical discussion in Germany. This other question was: What is the Revolution?
As you know, in 1794 Fichte wrote about the French Revolution.21 In 1798 Kant writes a short text on the Revolution which forms part of The Contest of the Faculties,22 actually a collection of three dissertations on the relationships between the different faculties making up the university. We should not forget that the second essay of The Contest of the Faculties concerns the relationships between the philosophy and law faculties. For Kant, what is essential in these contested relationships between philosophy and law concerns precisely the question: Is the human race constantly progressing? With regard to this question, which for him is the most important question of the relationships between philosophy and law, his reasoning is as follows. In the fifth section of this essay he says: If we want to answer the question—“is the human race constantly progressing?”—we must of course determine the possibility of progress and the cause of a possible progress. But, he says, once we have established that there is a cause of a possible progress, in fact we will only be able to know that this cause is actually at work if we can identify an event which shows that cause in action. In short, what Kant means is that designating a cause can only ever determine possible effects, or more precisely the possibility of effects. The reality of an effect can be established only if we isolate an event that we can attach to a cause. So we will not be able to answer this question through the process by which we analyze the teleological structure of history, but through a process which is the opposite of this. Thus, we should not follow the teleological thread which makes a progress possible, but isolate an event in history which will have, Kant says, the value of a sign. A sign of what? A sign of the existence of a cause,23 of a permanent cause which has guided men down the road of progress throughout history. A constant cause which must be shown to have acted in the past, to be active now, and that will act in the future. Consequently the event which will enable us to decide whether there is progress will be a sign which is “rememorativum, demonstrativum, pronosticum,”24 that is to say, a sign which indicates that it really was always thus (rememorative sign); that it really is thus now (demonstrative sign); and finally a prognostic sign which shows us that it will always be thus. This is how we can be sure that the cause which makes progress possible has not just acted at a given moment but really is a matter of a tendency, and that it confirms a general tendency of the entire human race to advance in the direction of progress. This then is the question: Is there around us an event which would serve as a rememorative, demonstrative, and prognostic sign of a constant progress which carries along the whole of the human race? You will be able to guess Kants answer from what I have said, but I would like to read to you the passage through which he introduces the Revolution as the sign of this event. At the start of the sixth section he says: “Do not expect this event [with rememorative, demonstrative, and prognostic value; M.F.] to consist in the lofty deeds or major crimes of men by which what was thought great is made small or what was thought small is made great, nor in ancient and magnificent political structures which disappear as if by magic, while others arise in their place as if from the depths of the earth. No, none of this.”25
There are two things to note in this text. First, of course, Kant alludes here to forms of analysis which it was customary to refer to in the debate on whether or not the human race is progressing. That is to say: the overthrow of empires, great catastrophes which cause the best established states to disappear, the reversals of fortune which make the great become small and the small become great. He refutes all this, but at the same time says: Take note, it is not to great events that we should look for the rememorative, demonstrative, and prognostic sign of progress. We should look for it in events which are almost imperceptible. That is to say, we cannot analyze our own present in its significant values without engaging in a hermeneutics or decipherment which will enable us to endow what is apparently of no significance and value with the significance and value we are looking for. Now what is this event which is therefore not a great event? Well, it is the Revolution. The Revolution … But after all, we can hardly say that the Revolution is not a resounding, striking event. Is it not precisely an event which overturns everything and makes small what was great and great what was small, and which abolishes and engulfs what seem to be the most solid structures of society and of states? But, Kant says, it is not the Revolution in itself which is significant. What is significant and constitutes the event with demonstrative, prognostic, and rememorative value is not the exploits and gesticulations of the revolutionary drama itself. What is significant is the way in which the Revolution exists as spectacle, the way in which it is greeted everywhere by spectators who are not participants, but observers, witnesses, and who, for better or worse, let themselves be caught up in it. The gesticulations of revolution do not constitute progress. Not only is it not, in the first place, revolutionary gesticulation which constitutes progress, but, to tell the truth, if the Revolution was to be made again, we would not go through with it. There is an extremely interesting text on this: “No matter whether the revolution of a gifted people, which we have seen carried out in our time [Kant is therefore referring to the French Revolution; M.F.], succeeds or fails, no matter whether it piles up misery and atrocities” to the point, he says, “that a sensible man, who could hope to see it through successfully at the second attempt, would nonetheless decide never to make the experiment at this price.”26 [ …] So, in the first place, it is not the revolutionary process itself which is important. No matter whether it succeeds or fails, this has nothing to do with progress, or at least with the sign of progress we are looking for. The success or failure of the Revolution is neither the sign of progress nor the sign that there is no progress. Indeed, even if someone was able to have an understanding of the Revolution and how it unfolds, and even if, at the same time as knowing what it is, he had the possibility of leading it to a successful conclusion, still this rational man, calculating the necessary cost of this Revolution, would not do it again. The Revolution, therefore, what takes place in the Revolution, is not important. Indeed, making revolution is really something not to be undertaken.
What, on the other hand, is important, has meaning, and constitutes the sign of progress, is that all around the Revolution there is, he says, “sympathy of aspiration which borders on enthusiasm.”27 What then is important in the Revolution is not the Revolution itself, which in any case is a mess, but what goes on in the minds of those not making the Revolution, or at any rate who are not its principal actors; it is their relationship to this Revolution in which they themselves are not engaged or in which they are not the main actors. What is significant is the enthusiasm for the Revolution. What does Kant say this enthusiasm for the Revolution is the sign of? In the first place, it is the sign that all men think it is the right of every people to give itself the political constitution that suits it and that it wants. Second, it is the sign that men seek to give themselves a kind of political constitution that, by virtue of its very principles, avoids all offensive war.28 It is this movement towards a situation in which men will be able to give themselves the political constitution they want and a political constitution which will prevent all offensive war, it is this will, according to Kant, that is signified by enthusiasm for the Revolution. And we know that these two elements (a freely chosen political constitution, and a political constitution which avoids war) are also the very process of the Aufklärung, that is to say, that the Revolution is actually the completion and continuation of the very process of Aufklärung. To that extent both the Aufklärung and the Revolution are events which can never be forgotten: “I maintain—even without the mind of a seer—that I can predict to the human race, from the aspects and precursory signs of our times, that it will attain this end,”29 that is to say, arrive at a state in which men will be able to give themselves the constitution they want and one that will prevent offensive wars.
So, the precursory signs of our epoch show us that man will attain this end and, at the same time, that henceforth its progress will never again be put in question. “In fact, such a phenomenon in human history is never forgotten, because it has revealed an aptitude and faculty for progress in human nature of a kind that no politicians subtle efforts could have extracted from the course of past events: only nature and freedom, united in the human species according to the inner principles of right, could forecast it, albeit indefinitely with regard to its time, and as a contingent event. But even if the intended goal of this event were not to be attained today, and even if a peoples revolution or constitutional reform were ultimately to fail, or if, after the passage of time, everything were to relapse back into the old ways (as some politicians now predict), this philosophical prophecy would still lose none of its force. For that event is too important, too bound up with the interests of humanity, and its influence is too widespread in every part of the world for it not to be brought back to mind by nations when favorable circumstances occur, and recalled during the crisis of new attempts of this kind; because in a matter of such importance for the human species, the projected constitution must at a certain moment attain that soundness in everyones mind which the lessons of repeated experience could not fail to impart to it.”30 I think this text is really extremely interesting, obviously not just within the system of Kantian thought, but for its presentation as a prediction, a prophetic text, about the meaning and value, not of the Revolution, which in any case always risks returning to the old ways, but of the Revolution as an event, as a sort of event whose content is unimportant, but whose existence in the past constitutes a permanent virtuality, the guarantee for future history of the non-forgetfulness and continuity of a movement towards progress.
I have just wanted to situate for you Kants text on Aufklärung. In the next hour we will try to read it a bit more closely. But I wanted to situate it for you both for the context in which it was placed, its relationship to the public, to Mendelssohns Aufklärung, for the type of questions it raises, and for the fact that in a way it is at the origin, the point of departure of a whole dynasty of philosophical questions. Because it seems to me that these two questions—“What is Aufklärung?” and “What is the Revolution?”—which are the two forms in which Kant poses the question of his own present reality, have continued to haunt, if not all of modern philosophy since the nineteenth century, then at least a large part of this philosophy. After all, the Aufklärung, both as singular event inaugurating European modernity and as a permanent process which manifests itself in the form of the history of reason, the development and establishment of forms of rationality and technology, the autonomy and authority of knowledge, all of this, this question of the Aufklärung—or of reason and the use of reason as a historical problem—seems to me to have run through all philosophical thought from Kant up to now. The other present reality encountered by Kant, the Revolution—the Revolution as at once an event, rupture, and upheaval in history, as failure, and almost necessary failure, but with at the same time a value, an operational value in history and the progress of the human species—is also another great question of philosophy. I would be tempted to say that basically Kant seems to me to have founded the two great traditions which have divided modern philosophy.
Lets say that in his major critical œuvre—that of the three Critiques and above all the first Critique—Kant set out and founded that tradition of critical philosophy which posed the question of the conditions of possibility of a true knowledge. And we can say that a whole part of modern philosophy since the nineteenth century presented itself and developed from this as the analytic of truth. This is the form of philosophy that you now find in the form of, say, Anglo-Saxon analytical philosophy.
But within modern and contemporary philosophy there is another type of question, of critical questioning whose birth we see precisely in the question of Aufklärung or in Kants text on the Revolution. This other critical tradition does not pose the question of the conditions of possibility of a true knowledge; it asks the question: What is present reality? What is the present field of our experiences? What is the present field of possible experiences? Here it is not a question of the analytic of truth but involves what could be called an ontology of the present, of present reality, an ontology of modernity, an ontology of ourselves.
It seems to me that the philosophical choice confronting us today is the following. We have to opt either for a critical philosophy which appears as an analytical philosophy of truth in general, or for a critical thought which takes the form of an ontology of ourselves, of present reality. It is this latter form of philosophy which, from Hegel to the Frankfurt School, passing through Nietzsche, Max Weber and so on, has founded a form of reflection to which, of course, I link myself insofar as I can.d
There you are. So, if you like we will take a five minutes rest and then I will move on to a closer reading of this text on Aufklärung whose surroundings I have simply tried to outline.

“On the 30th [November 1969], the assembly of the professors of the Collège de France voted for the transformation of chair of the history of philosophical thought, previously held by Jean Hippolite, into the chair of the history of systems of thought” (Daniel Defert, “Chronologie” in M. Foucault, Dits et Écrits, 1954-1988, ed. D. Defert and F. Ewald, with the collaboration of J. Lagrange, 4 volumes, Paris: Gallimard, 1994, vol. 1, p. 35). On the problematization of a “history of thought,” see more precisely “Préface à lHistoire de la sexualité” in ibid., vol. 4, pp. 579-580.
M. Foucault, Histoire de la folie à lâge classique (Paris: Plon, 1961); English translation by Jonathan Murphy, History of Madness (London: Routledge, 2006).
Michel Foucault, Les Mots et les Choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1966); English translation by A. Sheridan, The Order of Things (London: Tavistock and New York: Pantheon, 1970).
M. Foucault, Surveiller et Punir (Paris: Gallimard, 1975); English translation by A. Sheridan, Discipline and Punish. Birth of the Prison (London: Allen Lane and New York: Pantheon, 1977). On governmentality, see M. Foucault, Sécurité, Territoire, Population, éd. Michel Senellart (Paris: Gallimard-Le Seuil, 2004); English translation by Graham Burchell, Security, Territory, Population, ed., Michel Senellart, English series ed., Arnold I. Davidson (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
See the second and third volumes of the History of Sexuality, M. Foucault, LUsage des plaisirs and Le Souci de soi (Paris: Gallimard, 1984); English translations by R. Hurley, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self (New York: Random House, 1985 and Harmondsworth: Viking, 1986).
Sécurité, Territoire, Population; Security, Territory, Population.
French translation by S. Piobetta in I. Kant, La Philosophie de lhistoire (Paris: Gonthier, 1947) pp. 26-45; English translation by Lewis White Beck as “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” in I. Kant, On History, ed. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963) pp. 11-26, and also by H.B. Nisbet as “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” in Hans Reiss, ed., Kants Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970) pp. 41-53.
French, ibid., pp. 88-109 (originally published in November 1785).
French, ibid., pp. 110-127; English translation by Emil L. Fackenheim in Kant, On History, pp. 53-68; (originally published in January 1786).
French translation as “Compte rendu de louvrage de Herder: ‘Idées en vue dune philosophie de lhistoire de lhumanité” in ibid., pp. 56-88; English translation by Robert E. Anchor as “Reviews of Herders Ideas for a Philosophy of the History of Mankind” in Kant, On History, pp. 27-52; (originally published in January 1785 in the Jenaische allgemeine Literaturzeitung).
French ibid., pp. 128-162 (originally published in January-February 1788).
On this movement see M. Pelli, The Age of Haskala: Studies in Hebrew Literature of the Enlightenment in Germany (Leyde: Brill, 1979); G. Scholem, Fidélité et Utopie. Essais sur le judaïsme contemporain, trans. B. Dupuy (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1978); A. Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973); and D. Bourel, “Les réserves de Mendelssohn, Rousseau, Voltaire et le juif de Berlin,” Revue internationale de philosophie, Brussels, 1978, vol. 24-25, pp. 309-326.
Moses Mendelssohn, Philosophische Gespräche (Berlin: C.F. Voss, 1755).
Moses Mendelssohn, Jérusalem ou Pouvoir religieux et Judaïsme, trans. D. Bourel, with a preface by E. Levinas (Paris: Presses dAujourdhui, 1982).
The letter was addressed to Johann Peter Uz, 12 February 1756. A more complete version reads: “The author of the philosophical dialogues and of the short work on the sensations is not an imaginary Jew but a very real Jew, still very young and remarkably brilliant who, without teachers, has penetrated deeply into the sciences, does algebra in his spare time like we write poetry and who, since he was young, has earned his living in a Jewish enterprise. This, at least, is what Lessing tells me. His name is Moses. Maupertius joked about him saying that he lacks nothing to be a great man except a bit of foreskin.” Quoted in D. Bourel, Moses Mendelssohn. La naissance du judaïsme moderne (Paris: Gallimard, 2004) p. 109.
I. Kant, Letter of 16 August 1783, XIII, 129, French translation by J.L. Bruch, Paris, 1969, quoted in Jérusalem, p. 48.
See above note 9.
See above note 8.
See above note 7.
See above note 11.
J.G. Fichte, Considérations destinées à rectifier le jugement du public sur la Révolution française [Contribution to the Rectification of the Publics Judgment of the French Revolution], trans. J. Barni (Paris: Payot-Rivages, 1989).
Foucault uses the translation by S. Piobetta, in I. Kant, La Philosophie de lhistoire, pp. 163-179; English translation (of second essay only) by Robert E. Anchor as “An Old Question Raised Again: Is the Human Race Constantly Progressing?” in I. Kant, On History, pp. 137-154, and by H.B. Nisbet as “The Contest of the Faculties. A Renewed Attempt to Answer the Question: Is the Human Race Continually Improving?” in Hans Reiss, ed., Kants Political Writings, pp. 176-190.
“We must therefore look for an event which indicates the existence of such a cause”: ibid., French p. 169; English p. 143, and p. 181.
Ibid., Fr. p. 170; Eng. p. 143, and p. 181.
Ibid., Fr. p. 170; Eng. p. 143, and p. 182.
Ibid., Fr. p. 171; Eng. p. 144, and p. 182.
Ibid., Fr. p. 173; Eng. p. 147, and p. 184.
Ibid., Fr. pp. 173-174; Eng. p. 147, and pp. 184-185.
THE GOVERNMENT OF SELF AND OTHERS. Copyright © 2008 by Éditions du Seuil/ Gallimard. Translation copyright © 2010 by Graham Burchell. All rights reserved. For information, address Picador, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Product Details

Foucault, Michel
Palgrave MacMillan
Burchell, Graham
Davidson, Arnold I.
Gros, Frederic
Harcourt, Bernard E.
Davidson, Arnold I. I.
Sawyer, Stephen W
Davidson, Arnold I.
Burchell, Graham
Brion, Fabienne
Truthfulness and falsehood
Freedom of speech -- Philosophy.
Philosophy : General
History & Surveys - Ancient & Classical
Edition Description:
Lectures at the Collège de France
Series Volume:
No. 7
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in

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The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the College de France, 1982-1983 New Hardcover
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"Synopsis" by ,
Three years before his death Michel Foucault gave a series of lectures at the Catholic University of Louvain that have remained relatively unknown until only recently. Entitled Wrong-Doing, Truth-Telling, these lectures provides the missing link between Foucaults early work on sexuality and punishment and his later work on Greek and Roman antiquity. Ranging broadly from Homer to the 20th century, Foucault traces how the early ethical acts of truth-telling in ancient Greece gradually metamorphosed into acts of self-incrimination in monastic times and ultimately into the birth and rise of psychiatry as the foundation of modern penology, criminology, and criminal justice. For Foucault, self-incrimination no longer did the work necessary to quell justice because, by the 19th century, we wanted to know more than just the fact of wrongdoing, we wanted to know who the criminal was: not just whether the accused committed the crime, but what it was about him that made him commit the crime. An avowal of wrong-doing was no longer sufficient—psychiatric expertise was now necessary—and that development marks the birth of discipline and modern criminal justice made so famous by Foucault
"Synopsis" by ,

This lecture, given by Michel Foucault at the Collège de France, launches an inquiry into the notion of parresia and continues his rereading of ancient philosophy. Through the study of this notion of truth-telling, of speaking out freely, Foucault re-examines Greek citizenship, showing how the courage of the truth forms the forgotten ethical basis of Athenian democracy. The figure of the philosopher king, the condemnation of writing, and Socrates rejection of political involvement are some of the many topics of ancient philosophy revisited here.

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