Epicurean Presences in Foucault’s <i>The Hermeneutics of the Subject</i>

Alain Gigandet

in Dynamic Reading

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199794959
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949694 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Epicurean Presences in Foucault’s The Hermeneutics of the Subject

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In his piece, “Epicurean Presences in Foucault's The Hermeneutics of the Subject,” Alain Gigandet studies the ways in which Epicureanism, while providing some of the evidence for Foucault’s 1981-82 course on the hermeneutics of the subject, nonetheless seems to posit a subject that operates in terms different than those articulated by Foucault’s predominantly Stoic picture. Specifically, Gigandet suggests that Epicurean ethics posits a subject defined above all by the image of the conquest of a place, especially in a defensive manner.  To make his case, he examines some of the central metaphors in the De Rerum Natura and other Epicurean texts that define the nature of the subject.  He considers, for example, the famous Epicurean dictum that because of our common mortality we inhabit a “city without walls,” a metaphor that points to the ultimately precarious foundation of our happiness, as well as famous Lucretian images of the wise man as “fortified” by his Epicurean doctrine.  He thus defines an Epicurean “hermeneutics of the subject” that is perhaps necessarily marginalized in Foucault’s writings, as it is not entirely reducible to Foucault’s broader and largely Stoic portrait.

Keywords: Epicureanism; Michel Foucault; care of the self; stoicism; subjectivity

Chapter.  5114 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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