Foucault, Kant, and Antiquity

Porter, James I. 2024. Foucault, Kant, and antiquity. Representations 165(1). 120–143.

Michel Foucault’s return to classical antiquity at the end of his career coincides with a turn away from institutional critique and a return to Kant. This is no coincidence. Foucault’s Introduction to Kant’s “Anthropology” (1961) completely anticipates his approach to ancient subject formations, which reflects Kant’s theory of the liberal, self-enterprising, and enlightened subject as this is outlined in Foucault’s “What Is Enlightenment?” (1984) and elsewhere. Foucault’s final studies surface isolated, private, and autonomous subjects who are at once premodern, proto-Christian, and uncannily modern. Fashioned by ascetic and aesthetic models of self-care, they testify to “a genealogy of the modern subject.”

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