Ideas of Michel Foucault, by Theme

[French, 1926 - 1984, Born at Poitiers. Professor at the Collège de France, Paris.]

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1. Philosophy / B. History of Ideas / 2. Ancient Thought
Early Greeks cared about city and companions; later Greeks concentrated on the self
1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 4. Later European Philosophy / c. Eighteenth century philosophy
The big issue since the eighteenth century has been: what is Reason? Its effect, limits and dangers?
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 3. Philosophy Defined
Critical philosophy is what questions domination at every level
1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 1. Continental Philosophy
Philosophy and politics are fundamentally linked
1. Philosophy / H. Continental Philosophy / 4. Linguistic Structuralism
Structuralism systematically abstracted the event from sciences, and even from history
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 2. Logos
When logos controls our desires, we have actually become the logos
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 7. Status of Reason
Foucault originally felt that liberating reason had become an instrument of domination [Gutting]
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 4. Uses of Truth
'Truth' is the procedures for controlling which statements are acceptable
3. Truth / A. Truth Problems / 9. Rejecting Truth
Truth doesn't arise from solitary freedom, but from societies with constraints
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 1. Knowledge
Why does knowledge appear in sudden bursts, and not in a smooth continuous development?
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 1. Relativism
Foucault challenges knowledge in psychology and sociology, not in the basic sciences [Gutting]
Saying games of truth were merely power relations would be a horrible exaggeration
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / a. Consciousness
Unlike Marxists, Foucault explains thought internally, without deference to conscious ideas [Gutting]
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 2. Self as Social Construct
A subject is a form which can change, in (say) political or sexual situations
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 3. Emotions
Feelings are not unchanging, but have a history (especially if they are noble)
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 8. The Arts / b. Literature
The author function of any text is a plurality of selves [Gutting]
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / g. Fine deeds
Why couldn't a person's life become a work of art?
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / b. Types of pleasure
Greeks and early Christians were much more concerned about food than about sex
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / b. Defining ethics
Ethics is the conscious practice of freedom
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 3. Natural Values / c. Natural rights
Nature is not the basis of rights, but the willingness to risk death in asserting them
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 1. Purpose of a State
Every society has a politics of truth, concerning its values, functions, prestige and mechanisms
24. Political Theory / C. Ruling a State / 1. Social Power
Marxists denounced power as class domination, but never analysed its mechanics
Power doesn't just repress, but entices us with pleasure, artefacts, knowledge and discourse
Foucault can't accept that power is sometimes decent and benign [Scruton]
The aim is not to eliminate power relations, but to reduce domination
24. Political Theory / C. Ruling a State / 3. Government / a. Government
The big question of the Renaissance was how to govern everything, from the state to children
24. Political Theory / C. Ruling a State / 4. Changing the State / a. Centralisation
Power is localised, so we either have totalitarian centralisation, or local politics [Gutting]
25. Social Practice / A. Freedoms / 5. Freedom of lifestyle
Prisons gradually became our models for schools, hospitals and factories [Gutting]
The idea of liberation suggests there is a human nature which has been repressed
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 3. Punishment / d. Reform of offenders
Power is used to create identities and ways of life for other people [Shorten]
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 5. Education / d. Study of history
History lacks 'meaning', but it can be analysed in terms of its struggles