Article

Michel Foucault

Michael A. Peters, Marek Tesar and Kirsten Locke

in Philosophy


Published online January 2014 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0128

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Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers in 1926 and died of AIDS in 1984 at the age of 57. In his short life span Foucault became an emblem for a generation of intellectuals: someone who embodied in his work the most-pressing intellectual issues of his time. In his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, he named as his closest supports and models Georges Dumèzil, Georges Canguilhem (the philosopher of biology who succeeded Gaston Bachelard at the Sorbonne), and Jean Hyppolite. He was a student both of Louis Althusser and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He grew up in the tradition of a history of philosophy that dominated the French university, a history that gave pride of place to Hegel and helped to legitimate the contemporaneous emphases on phenomenology and existentialism, especially as it developed in the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre. He was classified by the popular press as a member of the structuralist Gang of Four, along with Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Lacan, and Roland Barthes. Foucault in 1964 indicated his intellectual debts in an early essay titled “Nietzsche, Freud, Marx,” yet his relationship to Marx and Marxism was more complex and problematic than his engagement with Nietzsche, whose Genealogy of Morals (originally published in 1887) provided a model for historical study. He came to Nietzsche through the writings of Georges Bataille and Maurice Blanchot, both of whom exercised tremendous influence on his work. Yet, it was Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger who helped Foucault to frame up his life’s work as the history by which human beings become subjects and to change the emphasis of his early work from political subjugation of “docile bodies” to individuals as self-determining beings continually in the process of constituting themselves as ethical subjects. In this article we focus on internationally published English editions to avoid confusion and to provide readers a balanced overview of top-quality sources currently available.

Article.  8833 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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