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Quotes of the month (2010)


Foucault,GIP Press Conference

Quote for October 2010

Perhaps the role of the philosopher, the role of philosopher at present, is not to be a theoretician of totality, but the diagnostician, if you will allow me to use this word, the diagnostician of today.

Raymond Aron and Michel Foucault, (2007) Dialogue, Paris: Nouvelles Editions Lignes, p. 22. This passage trans. Clare O


Quote for August 2010

What is to be understood by the disciplining of societies in Europe since the eighteenth century is not, of course, that the individuals who are part of them become more and more obedient, nor that all societies become like barracks, schools or prisons; rather, it is that an increasingly controlled, more rational and economic process of adjustment has been sought between productive activities, communications networks, and the play of power relations.

Michel Foucault, (2000) [1981] 'The Subject and Power'. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Power The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume Three. New York: New Press, p. 339.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for July 2010

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, which has founded a form of reflection to which, of course, I link myself insofar as I can.

Michel Foucault, (2010) [2008]. The Government of Self and Others. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1982- 1983. Tr. Graham Burchell. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 21

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for June 2010

What is philosophy if not a way of reflecting, not so much on what is true and what is false, as on our relationship to truth? ... The movement by which, not without effort and uncertainty, dreams and illusions, one detaches oneself from what is accepted as true and seeks other rules - that is philosophy.

Michel Foucault. (1997) [1980]. 'The Masked Philosopher'. In J. Faubion (ed.). Tr. Robert Hurley and others. Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. The Essential Works of Michel Foucault 1954-1984. Volume One. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, Allen Lane, p. 327. Translation modified.

Reflections on this quotation (my blog)


Quote for May 2010

What I wanted to do was in the order of philosophy: can one reflect philosophically on the history of knowledge as historical material rather than reflecting on a theory or a philosophy of history. In a rather empirical and clumsy fashion, I envisaged a work as close as possible to that of historians, but in order to ask philosophical questions, concerning the history of knowledge. I hoped for the good will of historians.

Michel Foucault, "Le style de l'histoire," in In Dits et Ecrits vol IV. Paris: Gallimard, p. 652. (This passage trans. Clare O'Farrell)


Quote for April 2010

Now the critique of knowledge I would propose does not in fact consist in denouncing what is continually - I was going to say monotonously - oppressive under reason, for after all, believe me, insanity (déraison) is just as oppressive. Nor would this political critique of knowledge consist in flushing out the presumption of power in every truth affirmed, for again, believe me, there is just as much abuse of power in the lie or error. The critique I propose consists in determining under what conditions and with what effects a veridiction is exercised, that is to say, once again, a type of formulation falling under particular rules of verification and falsification.

Michel Foucault, (2008) [2004]. The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978- 1979. Tr. Graham Burchell. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 36


Quote for March 2010

Showing that scientific demonstration is basically only a ritual, that the supposedly universal subject of knowledge is really only an individual historically qualified according to certain modalities, and that the discovery of truth is really a certain modality of the production of truth; putting what is given as the truth of observation or demonstration back on the basis of rituals, of the qualifications of the knowing individual, of the truth-event system, is what I would call the archaeology of knowledge.

Michel Foucault. Michel Foucault, (2006) [2003]. Psychiatric Power. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973- 1974. Tr. Graham Burchell. Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 238


Quote for January 2010

I don't think there is actually a sovereign founding subject, a universal form of subject that one might find everywhere. I am very skeptical and very hostile towards this conception of the subject. I think on the contrary, that the subject is constituted through practices of subjection, or, in a more autonomous way, through practices of liberation, of freedom, as in Antiquity, starting of course, from a number of rules, styles and conventions that can be found in the cultural setting.

Michel Foucault. (1996) [1984]. An Aesthetics of Existence. In Foucault Live. collected Interviews, 1961-1984. Sylvère Lotringer (Ed.). New York: Semiotext(e), p. 452. Translation modified.