The Courage of Truth: The Government of Self and Others II: First Lecture February 1st 1984 - Collège de France

— Foucault, Michel. The Courage of Truth.” First Lecture 1 February 1984 In Lectures at the Collège de France 1983-1984, trans­lated by G. Burchell, 1-22. Picador, 1984.

First Lecture - February 1st 1984 - 2 hours. Audio record­ings

1 FEBRUARY 1984 First hour

This year I would like to con­tinue with the theme of par­rhêsia, truth-telling, that I be­gan to talk about last year. The lec­tures I would like to give will no doubt be some­what dis­jointed be­cause they deal with things that I would like to have done with, as it were, in or­der to re­turn, af­ter this sev­eral years long Greco-Latin trip”, to some con­tem­po­rary prob­lems which I will deal with ei­ther in the sec­ond part of the course, or pos­si­bly in the form of a work­ing sem­i­nar.

Well then, I shall re­mind you of some­thing. You know that the rules are that the lec­tures of the Collège are and must be pub­lic. So it is quite right that any­one, French cit­i­zens or oth­er­wise, has the right to come and lis­ten to them. The Collège pro­fes­sors are obliged to re­port reg­u­larly on their re­search in these pub­lic lec­tures. However, this prin­ci­ple poses prob­lems and raises a num­ber of dif­fi­cul­ties, be­cause the work, the re­search one may un­der­take—es­pe­cially [with re­gard to] ques­tions like those I dealt with pre­vi­ously [and] to which I would now like to re­turn, that is to say the analy­sis of cer­tain prac­tices and in­sti­tu­tions in mod­ern so­ci­ety—in­creas­ingly in­volves col­lec­tive work which, of course, can only be pur­sued in the form of a closed sem­i­nar, and not in a room like this and with such a large pub­lic. I am not go­ing to hide from you the fact that I shall raise the prob­lem of whether it is pos­si­ble, whether it may be in­sti­tu­tion­ally ac­cept­able to di­vide the work I am do­ing here be­tween pub­lic lec­tures—which, once again, are part of the job and of your rights—and lec­tures which would be re­stricted to small work­ing groups with some stu­dents or re­searchers who have a more spe­cial­ized in­ter­est in the ques­tion be­ing stud­ied. The pub­lic lec­tures would be, as it were, the ex­o­teric ver­sion of the some­what more es­o­teric work in a group. In any case, I don’t know how many pub­lic lec­tures I will give or for how long. So, if you like, let’s get go­ing and then we’ll see.

This year I would like to con­tinue the study of free-spo­ken­ness (franc-parler), of par­rhêsia as modal­ity of truth-telling. I will re­state the gen­eral idea for those of you who were not here last year. It is ab­solutely true that the analy­sis of the spe­cific struc­tures of those dis­courses which claim to be and are ac­cepted as true dis­course is both in­ter­est­ing and im­por­tant. Broadly speak­ing, we could call the analy­sis of these struc­tures an epis­te­mo­log­i­cal analy­sis. On the other hand, it seemed to me that it would be equally in­ter­est­ing to an­a­lyze the con­di­tions and forms of the type of act by which the sub­ject man­i­fests him­self when speak­ing the truth, by which I mean, thinks of him­self and is rec­og­nized by oth­ers as speak­ing the truth. Rather than an­a­lyz­ing the forms by which a dis­course is rec­og­nized as true, this would in­volve an­a­lyz­ing the form in which, in his act of telling the truth, the in­di­vid­ual con­sti­tutes him­self and is con­sti­tuted by oth­ers as a sub­ject of a dis­course of truth, the form in which he pre­sents him­self to him­self and to oth­ers as some­one who tells the truth, the form of the sub­ject telling the truth. In con­trast with the study of epis­te­mo­log­i­cal struc­tures, the analy­sis of this do­main could be called the study of alethurgic” forms. I am us­ing here a word which I com­mented on last year or two years ago. Etymologically, alethurgy would be the pro­duc­tion of truth, the act by which truth is man­i­fested. So, let’s leave the kind of analy­sis which fo­cuses on epistemological struc­ture” to one side and be­gin to an­a­lyze alethurgic forms.” This is the frame­work in which I am study­ing the no­tion and prac­tice of par­rhêsia, but for those of you who were not here I would like to re­call how I ar­rived at this prob­lem. I came to it from the old, tra­di­tional ques­tion, which is at the very heart of Western phi­los­o­phy, of the re­la­tions be­tween sub­ject and truth, a ques­tion which I posed, which I took up first of all in clas­si­cal, usual, and tra­di­tional terms, that is to say: on the ba­sis of what prac­tices and through what types of dis­course have we tried to tell the truth about the sub­ject? Thus: on the ba­sis of what prac­tices, through what types of dis­course have we tried to tell the truth about the mad sub­ject or the delin­quent sub­ject? On the ba­sis of what dis­cur­sive prac­tices was the speak­ing, la­bor­ing, and liv­ing sub­ject con­sti­tuted as a pos­si­ble ob­ject of knowl­edge (savoir)? This was the field of study that I tried to cover for a pe­riod.

And then I tried to en­vis­age this same ques­tion of sub­ject/​truth re­la­tions in an­other form: not that of the dis­course of truth in which the truth about the sub­ject can be told, but that of the dis­course of truth which the sub­ject is likely and able to speak about him­self, which may be, for ex­am­ple, avowal, con­fes­sion, or ex­am­i­na­tion of con­science. This was the analy­sis of the sub­jec­t’s true dis­course about him­self, and it was easy to see the im­por­tance of this dis­course for pe­nal prac­tices or in the do­main of the ex­pe­ri­ence of sex­u­al­ity.

This theme, this prob­lem led me, in pre­vi­ous years’ lec­tures, to [attempt] the his­tor­i­cal analy­sis of prac­tices of telling the truth about one­self. In un­der­tak­ing this analy­sis I no­ticed some­thing un­ex­pected. To be more pre­cise, I shall say that it is easy to note the great im­por­tance of the prin­ci­ple that one should tell the truth about one­self in all of an­cient moral­ity and in Greek and Roman cul­ture. In sup­port and as il­lus­tra­tion of the im­por­tance of this prin­ci­ple in an­cient cul­ture, we can cite such fre­quently, con­stantly, con­tin­u­ally rec­om­mended prac­tices [as] the ex­am­i­na­tion of con­science pre­scribed by the Pythagoreans or Stoics, of which Seneca pro­vides such elab­o­rate ex­am­ples, and which are found again in Marcus Aurelius. We can also cite prac­tices like cor­re­spon­dence, the ex­change of moral, spir­i­tual let­ters, ex­am­ples of which can be found in Seneca, Pliny the Younger, Fronto, and Marcus Aurelius. We can also cite, again as il­lus­tra­tion of this prin­ci­ple one should tell the truth about one­self,” other, per­haps less well-known prac­tices which have left fewer traces, like the note­books, the kinds of jour­nals which peo­ple were rec­om­mended to keep about them­selves, ei­ther for the rec­ol­lec­tion and med­i­ta­tion of things one has ex­pe­ri­enced or read, or to record one’s dreams when wak­ing up.

So it is quite easy to lo­cate a very clear and solid set of prac­tices in an­cient cul­ture which in­volve telling the truth about one­self. These prac­tices are cer­tainly not un­known and I make no claim to hav­ing dis­cov­ered them; that is not my in­ten­tion. But I think there is a con­sis­tent ten­dency to an­a­lyze these forms of prac­tices of telling the truth about one­self by re­lat­ing them, as it were, to a cen­tral axis which is, of course—and en­tirely le­git­i­mately—the Socratic prin­ci­ple of know your­self”: they are then seen as the il­lus­tra­tion, the im­ple­men­ta­tion, the con­crete ex­em­pli­fi­ca­tion of the prin­ci­ple of gnôthi seau­ton. But I think it would be in­ter­est­ing to sit­u­ate these prac­tices in a broader con­text de­fined by a prin­ci­ple of which the gnôthi seau­ton is it­self only an im­pli­ca­tion. This prin­ci­ple—I think I tried to bring this out in the lec­tures I gave two years ago—is that of epimeleia heautou (care of self, ap­pli­ca­tion to one­self). This pre­cept, which is so ar­chaic, so an­cient in Greek and Roman cul­ture, and which in Platonic texts, and [more] pre­cisely in the Socratic di­a­logues, is reg­u­larly as­so­ci­ated with the gnôthi seau­ton, this prin­ci­ple (epimelê seautô: take care of your­self) gave rise, I think, to the de­vel­op­ment of what could be called a culture of self” in which a whole set of prac­tices of self are for­mu­lated, de­vel­oped, worked out, and trans­mit­ted. Studying these prac­tices of self as the his­tor­i­cal frame­work in which the in­junc­tion one should tell the truth about one­self” de­vel­oped, I saw a fig­ure emerge who was con­stantly pre­sent as the in­dis­pens­able part­ner, at any rate the al­most nec­es­sary helper in this oblig­a­tion to tell the truth about one­self. To put it more clearly and con­cretely, I shall say: we do not have to wait un­til Christianity, un­til the in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of the con­fes­sion at the start of the thir­teenth cen­tury, un­til the or­ga­ni­za­tion and in­stal­la­tion of a pas­toral power, for the prac­tice of telling the truth about one­self to rely upon and ap­peal to the pres­ence of the other per­son who lis­tens and en­joins one to speak, and who speaks him­self. In an­cient cul­ture, and there­fore well be­fore Christianity, telling the truth about one­self was an ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing sev­eral peo­ple, an ac­tiv­ity with other peo­ple, and even more pre­cisely an ac­tiv­ity with one other per­son, a prac­tice for two. And it was this other per­son who is pre­sent, and nec­es­sar­ily pre­sent in the prac­tice of telling the truth about one­self, which caught and held my at­ten­tion.

The sta­tus and pres­ence of this other per­son who is so nec­es­sary for me to be able to tell the truth about my­self ob­vi­ously poses some prob­lems. It is not so easy to an­a­lyze, for if it is true that we are rel­a­tively fa­mil­iar with the other who is nec­es­sary for telling the truth about one­self in Christian cul­ture, in which he takes the in­sti­tu­tional form of the con­fes­sor or spir­i­tual di­rec­tor, and if it is fairly easy to spot this other per­son in mod­ern cul­ture, whose sta­tus and func­tions should no doubt be an­a­lyzed more pre­cisely—this other per­son who is in­dis­pens­able for me to be able to tell the truth about my­self, whether in the role of doc­tor, psy­chi­a­trist, psy­chol­o­gist, or psy­cho­an­a­lyst—on the other hand, in an­cient cul­ture, where this role is nev­er­the­less well at­tested, we have to ac­knowl­edge that its sta­tus is much more vari­able, vague, much less clear cut and in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized. In an­cient cul­ture this other who is nec­es­sary for me to be able to tell the truth about my­self might be a pro­fes­sional philoso­pher, but he could be any­body. You re­call, for ex­am­ple, the pas­sage in Galen on the cure of er­rors and pas­sions, in which he says that to tell the truth about one­self and to know one­self we need some­one else whom we can pick up al­most any­where, so long as he is old enough and se­ri­ous. This per­son may be a pro­fes­sional philoso­pher, or he may be just any­body. He may be a teacher who is more or less part of an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized ped­a­gog­i­cal struc­ture (Epictetus di­rected a school), but he may be a per­sonal friend, or a lover. He may be a pro­vi­sional guide for a young man who is not yet fully ma­ture, who has not yet made his ba­sic choices in life, who is not yet the full mas­ter of him­self, but he may also be a per­ma­nent ad­viser who will ac­com­pany some­one through­out his life and guide him un­til death. You re­call, for ex­am­ple, the Cynic Demetrius who was the coun­selor of Thrasea Paetus, an im­por­tant fig­ure in Roman po­lit­i­cal life in the mid­dle of the first cen­tury, and who served him as coun­selor un­til the day of his death, un­til his sui­cide—since Demetrius was pre­sent at the sui­cide of Thrasea Paetus and con­versed with him un­til his last breath about the im­mor­tal­ity of the soul, nat­u­rally in the man­ner of the Socratic di­a­logue.

The sta­tus of this other per­son is vari­able there­fore. Nor is it any eas­ier to iso­late and de­fine his role, his prac­tice, since in one re­spect it is con­nected with and leans on ped­a­gogy, but it is also guid­ance of the soul. It may also be a sort of po­lit­i­cal ad­vice. But equally the role may be pre­sented metaphor­i­cally and even man­i­fest it­self and take shape as a sort med­ical prac­tice, since it is a ques­tion of tak­ing care of the soul and of fix­ing a reg­i­men of life, which in­cludes, of course, the reg­i­men of pas­sions, but also the di­etary reg­i­men, and the mode of life in all its as­pects.

However, even if the role of this other per­son who is in­dis­pens­able for telling the truth about one­self is un­cer­tain or, if you like, poly­va­lent, even if it ap­pears with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent as­pects and pro­files— med­ical, po­lit­i­cal, and ped­a­gog­i­cal— which mean that it is not al­ways easy to grasp ex­actly what his role is, even so, what­ever his role, sta­tus, func­tion, and pro­file may be, this other has, or rather should have a par­tic­u­lar kind of qual­i­fi­ca­tion in or­der to be the real and ef­fec­tive part­ner of truth-telling about self. And this qual­i­fi­ca­tion, un­like the con­fes­sor’s or spir­i­tual di­rec­tor’s in Christian cul­ture, is not given by an in­sti­tu­tion and does not re­fer to the pos­ses­sion and ex­er­cise of spe­cific spir­i­tual pow­ers. Nor is it, as in mod­ern cul­ture, an in­sti­tu­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion guar­an­tee­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal, psy­chi­atric, or psy­cho­an­a­lytic knowl­edge. The qual­i­fi­ca­tion re­quired by this un­cer­tain, rather vague, and vari­able char­ac­ter is a prac­tice, a cer­tain way of speak­ing which is called, pre­cisely, par­rhêsia (free-spokenness).

To be sure, it has now be­come quite dif­fi­cult for us to re­cap­ture this no­tion of par­rhêsia, of speak­ing out freely, con­sti­tu­tive of the fig­ure of this other per­son who is in­dis­pens­able for me to be able to tell the truth about my­self. But it has nonethe­less left many traces in the Latin and Greek texts. In the first place, it has ob­vi­ously left traces in the fairly fre­quent use of the word, and then also through ref­er­ences to the no­tion even when the word it­self is not used. We find many ex­am­ples, in Seneca in par­tic­u­lar, where the prac­tice of par­rhêsia is very clearly picked out in de­scrip­tions and char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, prac­ti­cally with­out the word be­ing used, if only be­cause of the dif­fi­cul­ties the Latins had trans­lat­ing the word par­rhêsia it­self. Apart from these oc­cur­rences of the word or ref­er­ences to the no­tion, there are also some texts which are more or less wholly de­voted to the no­tion of par­rhêsia. From the first cen­tury be­fore Jesus Christ, there is the text of the Epicurean Philodemus, who wrote a Peri par­rhêsia, a large part of which is sadly lost. But there is also Plutarch’s trea­tise, How to Distinguish the Flatterer from the Friend, which is en­tirely taken up with an analy­sis of par­rhêsia, or rather of the two op­posed, con­flict­ing prac­tices of flat­tery, on the one hand, and par­rhêsia (free-spokenness) on the other. There is Galen’s text, which I re­ferred to a mo­ment ago, on the cure of er­rors and pas­sions, in which a whole sec­tion is de­voted to par­rhêsia and to the choice of the per­son who is rightly qual­i­fied as be­ing able and hav­ing to use this free-spo­ken­ness so that the in­di­vid­ual can, in turn, tell the truth about him­self and con­sti­tute him­self as sub­ject telling the truth about him­self. So this is how I was led to fo­cus on this no­tion of par­rhêsia as a con­sti­tu­tive com­po­nent of truth-telling about self or, more pre­cisely, as the el­e­ment which qual­i­fies the other per­son who is nec­es­sary in the game and oblig­a­tion of speak­ing the truth about self.

You may re­call that last year I un­der­took the analy­sis of this free- spo­ken­ness, of the prac­tice of par­rhêsia, and of the char­ac­ter able to em­ploy par­rhêsia, who is called the par­rhêsi­ast (par­rhêsi­astes)—the word ap­pears later. The study of par­rhêsia and of the par­rhêsi­astes in the cul­ture of self in Antiquity is ob­vi­ously a sort of pre­his­tory of those prac­tices which are or­ga­nized and de­vel­oped later around some fa­mous cou­ples: the pen­i­tent and the con­fes­sor, the per­son be­ing guided and the spir­i­tual di­rec­tor, the sick per­son and the psy­chi­a­trist, the pa­tient and the psy­cho­an­a­lyst. It was, in a sense, this pre­his­tory that I was try­ing to write.

Only then, while study­ing this par­rhêsi­as­tic prac­tice in this per­spec­tive, as the pre­his­tory of these fa­mous cou­ples, I be­came aware again of some­thing which rather sur­prised me and which I had not fore­seen. Although par­rhêsia is an im­por­tant no­tion in the do­main of spir­i­tual di­rec­tion, spir­i­tual guid­ance, or soul coun­sel­ing, and how­ever im­por­tant it may be in Hellenistic and Roman lit­er­a­ture in par­tic­u­lar, it is im­por­tant to rec­og­nize that its ori­gin lies else­where, that it is not es­sen­tially, fun­da­men­tally, or pri­mar­ily in the prac­tice of spir­i­tual guid­ance that it emerges.

Last year I tried to show you that the no­tion of par­rhêsia was first of all and fun­da­men­tally a po­lit­i­cal no­tion. And this analy­sis of par­rhêsia as a po­lit­i­cal no­tion, as a po­lit­i­cal con­cept, clearly took me away some­what from my im­me­di­ate pro­ject: the an­cient his­tory of prac­tices of telling the truth about one­self. However, on the other hand, this draw­back was com­pen­sated for by the fact that by tak­ing up again or un­der­tak­ing the analy­sis of par­rhêsia in the field of po­lit­i­cal prac­tices, I drew a bit closer to a theme which, af­ter all, has al­ways been pre­sent in my analy­sis of the re­la­tions be­tween the sub­ject and truth: that of re­la­tions of power and their role in the in­ter­play be­tween the sub­ject and truth. With the no­tion of par­rhêsia, orig­i­nally rooted in po­lit­i­cal prac­tice and the prob­lema­ti­za­tion of democ­racy, then later di­verg­ing to­wards the sphere of per­sonal ethics and the for­ma­tion of the moral sub­ject, with this no­tion with po­lit­i­cal roots and its di­ver­gence into moral­ity, we have, to put things very schemat­i­cally—and this is what in­ter­ested me, why I stopped to look at this and am still fo­cus­ing on it—the pos­si­bil­ity of pos­ing the ques­tion of the sub­ject and truth from the point of view of the prac­tice of what could be called the gov­ern­ment of one­self and oth­ers. And thus we come back to the theme of gov­ern­ment which I stud­ied some years ago. It seems to me that by ex­am­in­ing the no­tion of par­rhêsia we can see how the analy­sis of modes of veri­dic­tion, the study of tech­niques of gov­ern­men­tal­ity, and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of forms of prac­tice of self in­ter­weave. Connecting to­gether modes of veri­dic­tion, tech­niques of gov­ern­men­tal­ity, and prac­tices of the self is ba­si­cally what I have al­ways been try­ing to do.

And to the ex­tent that this in­volves the analy­sis of re­la­tions be­tween modes of veri­dic­tion, tech­niques of gov­ern­men­tal­ity, and forms of prac­tice of self, you can see that to de­pict this kind of re­search as an at­tempt to re­duce knowl­edge (savoir) to power, to make it the mask of power in struc­tures, where there is no place for a sub­ject, is purely and sim­ply a car­i­ca­ture. What is in­volved, rather, is the analy­sis of com­plex re­la­tions be­tween three dis­tinct el­e­ments none of which can be re­duced to or ab­sorbed by the oth­ers, but whose re­la­tions are con­sti­tu­tive of each other. These three el­e­ments are: forms of knowl­edge (savoirs), stud­ied in terms of their spe­cific modes of veri­dic­tion; re­la­tions of power, not stud­ied as an em­a­na­tion of a sub­stan­tial and in­va­sive power, but in the pro­ce­dures by which peo­ple’s con­duct is gov­erned; and fi­nally the modes of for­ma­tion of the sub­ject through prac­tices of self. It seems to me that by car­ry­ing out this triple the­o­ret­i­cal shift—from the theme of ac­quired knowl­edge to that of veri­dic­tion, from the theme of dom­i­na­tion to that of gov­ern­men­tal­ity, and from the theme of the in­di­vid­ual to that of the prac­tices of self—we can study the re­la­tions be­tween truth, power, and sub­ject with­out ever re­duc­ing each of them to the oth­ers.

Now, hav­ing re­called this gen­eral tra­jec­tory, I would like [to men­tion briefly some of the es­sen­tial el­e­ments which char­ac­ter­ize par­rhêsia and the par­rhêsi­as­tic role. Very briefly, for a few min­utes, and once again [for the ben­e­fit of] those who were not here, I shall go back over some things I have al­ready said (I apol­o­gize to those who will be hear­ing this again), and then I would like, as quickly as pos­si­ble, to move on to an­other way of en­vis­ag­ing the same no­tion of par­rhêsia.

You re­call that, et­y­mo­log­i­cally, par­rhêsia is the ac­tiv­ity that con­sists in say­ing every­thing: pan rema. Parrhêsiasthai is telling all.” The par­rhêsi­astês is the per­son who says every­thing. Thus, as an ex­am­ple, in his dis­course On the Embassy, Demosthenes says: It is nec­es­sary to speak with par­rhêsia, with­out hold­ing back at any­thing, with­out con­ceal­ing any­thing. Similarly, in the First Phillipic he takes up ex­actly the same term and says: I will tell you what I think with­out con­ceal­ing any­thing. The par­rhêsi­ast is the per­son who tells all.

But we should im­me­di­ately add the clar­i­fi­ca­tion that this word par­rhêsia may be em­ployed with two val­ues. I think we find it used in a pe­jo­ra­tive sense, first in Aristophanes, and af­ter­wards very com­monly, even in Christian lit­er­a­ture. Used in a pe­jo­ra­tive sense, par­rhêsia does in­deed con­sist in say­ing every­thing, but in the sense of say­ing any­thing (anything that comes to mind, any­thing that serves the cause one is de­fend­ing, any­thing that serves the pas­sion or in­ter­est dri­ving the per­son who is speak­ing). The par­rhêsi­ast then be­comes and ap­pears as the im­pen­i­tent chat­ter­box, some­one who can­not re­strain him­self or, at any rate, some­one who can­not in­dex-link his dis­course to a prin­ci­ple of ra­tio­nal­ity and truth. There is an ex­am­ple of this use of the term par­rhêsia in a pe­jo­ra­tive sense (saying every­thing, say­ing any­thing, say­ing what­ever comes to mind with­out ref­er­ence to any prin­ci­ple of rea­son or truth) in Socrates, in the dis­course en­ti­tled Busiris in which Isocrates says that, un­like the po­ets who as­cribe every­thing and any­thing, ab­solutely every and any qual­i­ties and de­fects to the gods, one should not say every­thing about them. Similarly, in Book VIII of The Republic (I will give you the ex­act ref­er­ence shortly be­cause I will come back to this text) there is the de­scrip­tion of the bad de­mo­c­ra­tic city, which is all mot­ley, frag­mented, and dis­persed be­tween dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests, pas­sions, and in­di­vid­u­als who do not agree with each other. This bad de­mo­c­ra­tic city prac­tices par­rhêsia: any­one can say any­thing.

But the word par­rhêsia is also em­ployed in a pos­i­tive sense, and then par­rhêsia con­sists in telling the truth with­out con­ceal­ment, re­serve, empty man­ner of speech, or rhetor­i­cal or­na­ment which might en­code or hide it. Telling all” is then: telling the truth with­out hid­ing any part of it, with­out hid­ing it be­hind any­thing. In the Second Philippic, Demosthenes thus says that, un­like bad par­rhêsi­asts who say any­thing and do not in­dex their dis­courses to rea­son, he, Demosthenes, does not want to speak with­out rea­son, he does not want to resort to in­sults” and exchange blow for blow” (you know, those in­fa­mous dis­putes in which any­thing is said so long as it may harm the ad­ver­sary and be use­ful to one’s own cause). He does not want to do this, but rather he wants to tell the truth (ta alethe: things that are true) with par­rhêsia (meta par­rhêsias). Moreover, he adds: I will con­ceal noth­ing (oukh apokhrup­so­mai). To hide noth­ing and say what is true is to prac­tice par­rhêsia. Parrhesia is there­fore telling all,” but tied to the truth: telling the whole truth, hid­ing noth­ing of the truth, telling the truth with­out hid­ing it be­hind any­thing.

However, I don’t think this suf­fices as a de­scrip­tion and de­f­i­n­i­tion of this no­tion of par­rhêsia. In fact —leaving aside the neg­a­tive senses of the term for the mo­ment— in ad­di­tion to the rule of telling all and the rule of truth, two sup­ple­men­tary con­di­tions are re­quired for us to be able to speak of par­rhêsia in the pos­i­tive sense of the term. Not only must this truth re­ally be the per­sonal opin­ion of the per­son who is speak­ing, but he must say it as be­ing what he thinks, [and not] re­luc­tantly — and this is what makes him a par­rhêsi­ast. The par­rhêsi­ast gives his opin­ion, he says what he thinks, he per­son­ally signs, as it were, the truth he states, he binds him­self to this truth, and he is con­se­quently bound to it and by it. But this is not enough. For af­ter all, a teacher, a gram­mar­ian or a geome­ter, may say some­thing true about the gram­mar or geom­e­try they teach, a truth which they be­lieve, which they think. And yet we will not call this par­rhêsia. We will not say that the geome­ter and gram­mar­ian are par­rhêsi­asts when they teach truths which they be­lieve. For there to be par­rhêsia, you re­call—I stressed this last year—the sub­ject must be tak­ing some kind of risk [in speak­ing[ this truth which he signs as his opin­ion, his thought, his be­lief, a risk which con­cerns his re­la­tion­ship with the per­son to whom he is speak­ing. For there to be par­rhêsia, in speak­ing the truth one must open up, es­tab­lish, and con­front the risk of of­fend­ing the other per­son, of ir­ri­tat­ing him, of mak­ing him an­gry and pro­vok­ing him to con­duct which may even be ex­tremely vi­o­lent. So it is the truth sub­ject to risk of vi­o­lence. For ex­am­ple, in the First Philippic, af­ter hav­ing said that he is speak­ing meta par­rhêsias (with frank­ness), Demosthenes [adds]: I am well aware that, by em­ploy­ing this frank­ness, I do not know what the con­se­quences will be for me of the things I have just said.

In short, par­rhêsia, the act of truth, re­quires: first, the man­i­fes­ta­tion of a fun­da­men­tal bond be­tween the truth spo­ken and the thought of the per­son who spoke it; [second], a chal­lenge to the bond be­tween the two in­ter­locu­tors (the per­son who speaks the truth and the per­son to whom this truth is ad­dressed). Hence this new fea­ture of par­rhêsia: it in­volves some form of courage, the min­i­mal form of which con­sists in the par­rhêsi­ast tak­ing the risk of break­ing and end­ing the re­la­tion­ship to the other per­son which was pre­cisely what made his dis­course pos­si­ble. In a way, the par­rhêsi­ast al­ways risks un­der­min­ing that re­la­tion­ship which is the con­di­tion of pos­si­bil­ity of his dis­course. This is very clear in par­rhêsia as spir­i­tual guid­ance, for ex­am­ple, which can only ex­ist if there is friend­ship, and where the em­ploy­ment of truth in this spir­i­tual guid­ance is pre­cisely in dan­ger of bring­ing into ques­tion and break­ing the re­la­tion­ship of friend­ship which made this dis­course of truth pos­si­ble.

But in some cases this courage may also take a max­i­mal form when one has to ac­cept that, if one is to tell the truth, not only may one’s per­sonal, friendly re­la­tion­ship with the per­son to whom one is speak­ing be brought into ques­tion, but one may even be risk­ing one’s life. When Plato goes to see Dionysius the Elder—this is re­counted in Plutarch—he tells him truths which so of­fend the tyrant that he con­ceives the plan, which in fact he does not put into ex­e­cu­tion, of killing Plato. But Plato fun­da­men­tally knew and ac­cepted this risk. Parrhesia there­fore not only puts the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the per­son who speaks and the per­son to whom he ad­dresses the truth at risk, but it may go so far as to put the very life of the per­son who speaks at risk, at least if his in­ter­locu­tor has power over him and can­not bear be­ing told the truth. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle lays stress on the con­nec­tion be­tween par­rhêsia and courage when he links what he calls mega­lop­sukhia (greatness of soul) to the prac­tice of par­rhêsia.

Only —and this is the last fea­ture I would like to re­call briefly— par­rhêsia may be or­ga­nized, de­vel­oped, and sta­bi­lized in what could be called a par­rhêsi­as­tic game. For if the par­rhêsi­ast is some­one who, by telling the truth, the whole truth, re­gard­less of any other con­sid­er­a­tion, risks bring­ing his re­la­tion­ship to the other into ques­tion, and even risks his life, on the other hand, the per­son to whom this truth is told—whether this is the as­sem­bled peo­ple de­lib­er­at­ing on the best de­ci­sions to take, or the Prince, the tyrant or king to whom ad­vice must be given, or the friend one is guid­ing—this per­son (people, king, friend), if he wants to play the role pro­posed to him by the par­rhêsi­ast in telling him the truth, must ac­cept the truth, how­ever much it may hurt gen­er­ally ac­cepted opin­ion in the Assembly, the Prince’s pas­sions or in­ter­ests, or the in­di­vid­u­al’s ig­no­rance or blind­ness. The peo­ple, the Prince, and the in­di­vid­ual must ac­cept the game of par­rhêsia; they must play it them­selves and rec­og­nize that they have to lis­ten to the per­son who takes the risk of telling them the truth. Thus the true game of par­rhêsia will be es­tab­lished on the ba­sis of this kind of pact which means that if the par­rhêsi­ast demon­strates his courage by telling the truth de­spite and re­gard­less of every­thing, the per­son to whom this par­rhêsia is ad­dressed will have to demon­strate his great­ness of soul by ac­cept­ing be­ing told the truth. This kind of pact, be­tween the per­son who takes the risk of telling the truth and the per­son who agrees to lis­ten to it, is at the heart of what could be called the par­rhêsi­as­tic game.

So, in two words, par­rhêsia is the courage of the truth in the per­son who speaks and who, re­gard­less of every­thing, takes the risk of telling the whole truth that he thinks, but it is also the in­ter­locu­tor’s courage in agree­ing to ac­cept the hurt­ful truth that he hears.

You can see then how the prac­tice of par­rhêsia is op­posed to the art of rhetoric in every re­spect. Very schemat­i­cally, we can say that rhetoric, as it was de­fined and prac­ticed in Antiquity, is ba­si­cally a tech­nique con­cern­ing the way that things are said, but does not in any way de­ter­mine the re­la­tions be­tween the per­son who speaks and what he says. Rhetoric is an art, a tech­nique, a set of processes which en­able the per­son speak­ing to say some­thing which may not be what he thinks at all, but whose ef­fect will be to pro­duce con­vic­tions, in­duce cer­tain con­ducts, or in­still cer­tain be­liefs in the per­son [to whom he speaks]. In other words, rhetoric does not in­volve any bond of be­lief be­tween the per­son speak­ing and what he [states]. The good rhetori­cian, the good rhetor is the man who may well say, and who is per­fectly ca­pa­ble of say­ing, some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what he knows, be­lieves, and thinks, but of say­ing it in such a way that, in the fi­nal analy­sis, what he says—which is not what he be­lieves, thinks, or knows— be­comes what those he has spo­ken to think, be­lieve, and think they know. The con­nec­tion be­tween the per­son speak­ing and what he says is bro­ken in rhetoric, but the ef­fect of rhetoric is to es­tab­lish a con­strain­ing bond be­tween what is said and the per­son or per­sons to whom it is said. You can see that from this point of view rhetoric is the ex­act op­po­site of par­rhêsia, [which en­tails on the con­trary a] strong, man­i­fest, ev­i­dent foun­da­tion be­tween the per­son speak­ing and what he says, since he must openly ex­press his thought, and you can see that in par­rhêsia there is no ques­tion of say­ing any­thing other than what one thinks. Parrhesia there­fore es­tab­lishes a strong, nec­es­sary, and con­sti­tu­tive bond be­tween the per­son speak­ing and what he says, but it ex­poses to risk the bond be­tween the per­son speak­ing and the per­son to whom he speaks. For, af­ter all, it is al­ways pos­si­ble that the per­son to whom one is speak­ing will not wel­come what one says. He may take of­fence at what one says, he may re­ject it and even pun­ish or take re­venge on the per­son who has told him the truth. So rhetoric does not en­tail any bond be­tween the per­son speak­ing and what is said, but aims to es­tab­lish a con­strain­ing bond, a bond of power be­tween what is said and the per­son to whom it is said. Parrhesia, on the other hand, in­volves a strong and con­sti­tu­tive bond be­tween the per­son speak­ing and what he says, and, through the ef­fect of the truth, of the in­juries of truth, it opens up the pos­si­bil­ity of the bond be­tween the per­son speak­ing and the per­son to whom he has spo­ken be­ing bro­ken. Let’s say, very schemat­i­cally, that the rhetori­cian is, or at any rate may well be an ef­fec­tive liar who con­strains oth­ers. The par­rbe­si­ast, on the con­trary, is the coura­geous teller of a truth by which he puts him­self and his re­la­tion­ship with the other at risk.

These are all things which I spoke to you about last year. I would like now to move on a bit and note straight­away that we should not think of par­rhêsia as a sort of well-de­fined tech­nique in a counter-bal­anc­ing and sym­met­ri­cal re­la­tion to rhetoric. We should not think that in Antiquity, fac­ing the rhetori­cian who was a pro­fes­sional, a tech­ni­cian, and fac­ing rhetoric, which was a tech­nique and re­quired an ap­pren­tice­ship, there was a par­rhêsi­ast and a par­rhêsia which would also be [… Michel Foucault is in­ter­rupted at this point by pop mu­sic from one of the cas­sette recorders. We hear a mem­ber of the au­di­ence rush to their ma­chine. M.F.: I think you are mis­taken. It is at least Michael Jackson? Too bad.”].

The par­rhêsi­ast is not a pro­fes­sional. And par­rhêsia is af­ter all some­thing other than a tech­nique or a skill, al­though it has tech­ni­cal as­pects. Parrhesia is not a skill; it is some­thing which is harder to de­fine. It is a stance, a way of be­ing which is akin to a virtue, a mode of ac­tion. Parrhesia in­volves ways of act­ing, means brought to­gether with a view to an end, and in this re­spect it has, of course, some­thing to do with tech­nique, but it is also a role which is use­ful, valu­able, and in­dis­pens­able for the city and for in­di­vid­u­als. Parrhesia should be re­garded as a modal­ity of truth-telling, rather than [as a] tech­nique [like] rhetoric. To ar­rive at a bet­ter de­f­i­n­i­tion we can con­trast it with other ba­sic modal­i­ties of truth-telling found in Antiquity, and which will no doubt be found, in dis­placed and dif­fer­ent guises and forms, in other so­ci­eties, as well as our own. Basing our­selves on the clear un­der­stand­ings which Antiquity has left us about these things, we may de­fine four ba­sic modal­i­ties of truth-telling.

First, the truth-telling of prophecy. I will not try here to an­a­lyze what the prophets said, (the struc­tures, as it were, of what was said by prophets), but rather the way in which the prophet con­sti­tutes him­self and is rec­og­nized by oth­ers as a sub­ject speak­ing the truth. Evidently, the prophet, like the par­rhêsi­ast, is some­one who tells the truth. But I think that what fun­da­men­tally char­ac­ter­izes the prophet’s truth-telling, his veri­dic­tion, is that the prophet’s pos­ture is one of me­di­a­tion. The prophet, by de­f­i­n­i­tion, does not speak in his own name. He speaks for an­other voice; his mouth serves as in­ter­me­di­ary for a voice which speaks from else­where. The prophet, usu­ally, trans­mits the word of God. The dis­course he ar­tic­u­lates and ut­ters is not his own. He ad­dresses a truth to men which comes from else­where. The prophet’s po­si­tion is in­ter­me­di­ary in an­other sense in that he is be­tween the pre­sent and the fu­ture. The sec­ond char­ac­ter­is­tic of the prophet’s in­ter­me­di­ary po­si­tion is that he re­veals what time con­ceals from hu­mans, what no hu­man gaze could see and no hu­man ear could hear with­out him. Prophetic truth-telling is also in­ter­me­di­ary in that, in one way of course, the prophet re­veals, shows, or sheds light on what is hid­den from men, but in an­other way, or rather at the same time, he does not re­veal with­out be­ing ob­scure, and he does not dis­close with­out en­velop­ing what he says in the form of the rid­dle. Hence prophecy ba­si­cally never gives any uni­vo­cal and clear pre­scrip­tion. It does not bluntly speak the pure, trans­par­ent truth. Even when the prophet says what is to be done, one still has to ask one­self whether one has re­ally un­der­stood, whether one may not still be blind; one still has to ques­tion, hes­i­tate, and in­ter­pret.

Now par­rhêsia con­trasts with these dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics of prophetic truth-telling in each of these pre­cise re­spects. You can see then that the par­rhêsi­ast is the op­po­site of the prophet in that the prophet does not speak for him­self, but in the name of some­one else, and he ar­tic­u­lates a voice which is not his own. In con­trast, the par­rhêsi­ast, by de­f­i­n­i­tion, speaks in his own name. It is es­sen­tial that he ex­presses his own opin­ion, thought, and con­vic­tion. He must put his name to his words; this is the price of his frank­ness. The prophet does not have to be frank, even when he tells the truth. Second, the par­rhêsi­ast does not fore­tell the fu­ture. Certainly, he re­veals and dis­closes what peo­ple’s blind­ness pre­vents them from see­ing, but he does not un­veil the fu­ture. He un­veils what is. The par­rhêsi­ast does not help peo­ple some­how to step be­yond some thresh­old in the on­to­log­i­cal struc­ture of the hu­man be­ing and of time which sep­a­rates them from their fu­ture. He helps them in their blind­ness, but their blind­ness about what they are, about them­selves, and so not the blind­ness due to an on­to­log­i­cal struc­ture, but due to some moral fault, dis­trac­tion, or lack of dis­ci­pline, the con­se­quence of inat­ten­tion, lax­ity, or weak­ness. It is in this in­ter­play be­tween hu­man be­ings and their blind­ness due to inat­ten­tion, com­pla­cency, weak­ness, and moral dis­trac­tion that the par­rhêsi­ast per­forms his role, which, as you can see, is con­se­quently a rev­e­la­tory role very dif­fer­ent from that of the prophet, who stands at the point where hu­man fini­tude and the struc­ture of time are con­joined. Third, the par­rhêsi­ast, again by de­f­i­n­i­tion, and un­like the prophet, does not speak in rid­dles. On the con­trary, he says things as clearly and di­rectly as pos­si­ble, with­out any dis­guise or rhetor­i­cal em­bell­ish­ment, so that his words may im­me­di­ately be given their pre­scrip­tive value. The par­rhêsi­ast leaves noth­ing to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Certainly, he leaves some­thing to be done: he leaves the per­son he ad­dresses with the tough task of hav­ing the courage to ac­cept this truth, to rec­og­nize it, and to make it a prin­ci­ple of con­duct. He leaves this moral task, but, un­like the prophet, he does not leave the dif­fi­cult duty of in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Second, I think we can also con­trast par­rhêsi­as­tic truth-telling with an­other mode of truth-telling which was very im­por­tant in Antiquity, doubt­less even more im­por­tant for an­cient phi­los­o­phy than prophetic truth-telling: the truth-telling of wis­dom. As you know, the sage —and in this he is un­like the prophet we have just been talk­ing about—speaks in his own name. And even if this wis­dom may have been in­spired by a god, or passed on to him by a tra­di­tion, by a more or less es­o­teric teach­ing, the sage is nev­er­the­less pre­sent in what he says, pre­sent in his truth-telling. The wis­dom he ex­presses re­ally is his own wis­dom. The sage man­i­fests his mode of be­ing wise in what he says and, to that ex­tent, al­though he has a cer­tain in­ter­me­di­ary func­tion be­tween time­less, tra­di­tional wis­dom and the per­son he ad­dresses, un­like the prophet, he is not just a mouth­piece. He is him­self wise, a sage, and his mode of be­ing wise as his per­sonal mode of be­ing qual­i­fies him as a sage, and qual­i­fies him to speak the dis­course of wis­dom. To that ex­tent, in­so­far as he is pre­sent in his wise dis­course and man­i­fests his mode of be­ing wise in his wise dis­course, he is much closer to the par­rhêsi­ast than to the prophet. But the sage—and this is what char­ac­ter­izes him, at least through some of the traits that we can find in the an­cient lit­er­a­ture—keeps his wis­dom in a state of es­sen­tial with­drawal, or at least re­serve. Basically, the sage is wise in and for him­self, and does not need to speak. He is not forced to speak, noth­ing obliges him to share his wis­dom, to teach it, or demon­strate it. This ac­counts for what might be termed his struc­tural si­lence. And if he speaks, it is only be­cause he is ap­pealed to by some­one’s ques­tions, or by an ur­gent sit­u­a­tion of the city. This also ex­plains why his an­swers—and then in this re­spect he may well be like the prophet and of­ten im­i­tate and speak like him—may well be enig­matic and leave those he ad­dresses ig­no­rant or un­cer­tain about what he has ac­tu­ally said. Another char­ac­ter­is­tic of the truth-telling of wis­dom is that wis­dom says what is, un­like prophecy where what is said is what will be. The sage says what is, that is to say, he tells of the be­ing of the world and of things. And if this telling the truth of the be­ing of the world and of things has pre­scrip­tive value, it is not [in] the form of ad­vice linked to a con­junc­ture, but in the form of a gen­eral prin­ci­ple of con­duct.

These char­ac­ter­is­tics of the sage can be read and re­dis­cov­ered in the text in which Diogenes Laertius por­trays Heraclitus; it is a late text, but one of the rich­est in var­i­ous kinds of in­for­ma­tion. First, Heraclitus lived in an es­sen­tial with­drawal. He lived in si­lence. And Diogenes Laertius re­calls the mo­ment at which and why the break took place be­tween Heraclitus and the Ephesians. The Ephesians had ex­iled his friend, Hermodorus, pre­cisely be­cause he was wise and bet­ter than them. They said: We want there to be no one among us who is bet­ter than us.” And if there is some­one who is bet­ter than us, let him go and live else­where. The Ephesians could not bear the su­pe­ri­or­ity of pre­cisely some­one who tells the truth. They drove out the par­rhêsi­ast. They drove out Hermodorus, who was obliged to leave, forced into the ex­ile with which they pun­ished the per­son ca­pa­ble of telling the truth. Heraclitus, for his part, re­sponded with vol­un­tary with­drawal. Since the Ephesians have pun­ished the best among them with ex­ile, well, he says, all the oth­ers, who are less wor­thy, should be put to death. And since they are not put to death, I will be the one to leave. And from that time on, when asked to give laws to the city, he re­fused. Because, he says, the city is al­ready dom­i­nated by a pon­era po­liteia (a bad mode of po­lit­i­cal life). So he with­draws him­self and —in a fa­mous im­age— plays knuck­le­bones with chil­dren. To those who are in­dig­nant at him play­ing knuck­le­bones with chil­dren, he replies: Why are you sur­prised, ras­cals, is­n’t this more worth­while than ad­min­is­ter­ing the re­pub­lic with you [met’hu­mon po­li­teuesthai: than con­duct­ing po­lit­i­cal life with you; M.F.]?” He re­tires to the moun­tains, prac­tic­ing con­tempt of men (mis­an­thro­pon). And when asked why he re­mained silent, he replied: I keep quiet so that you may chat­ter.” Diogenes Laertius re­lates that in this re­tire­ment Heraclitus wrote his Poem in de­lib­er­ately ob­scure terms so that only those who were ca­pa­ble could read it and so that he, Heraclitus, could not be de­spised for be­ing read by all and sundry.

The fig­ure and char­ac­ter­is­tics of the par­rhêsi­ast stand in con­trast with this role, this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the sage, who ba­si­cally re­mains silent, only speaks when he re­ally wants to, and [only] in rid­dles. The par­rhêsi­ast is not some­one who is fun­da­men­tally re­served. On the con­trary, it is his duty, oblig­a­tion, re­spon­si­bil­ity, and task to speak, and he has no right to shirk this task. We will see this pre­cisely with Socrates, who re­calls it fre­quently in the Apology: the god has given him this of­fice of stop­ping men, tak­ing them aside, and ques­tion­ing them. And he will never aban­don this of­fice. Even un­der the threat of death, he will carry out his task un­til the end, un­til his fi­nal breath. Whereas the sage keeps silent and re­sponds only spar­ingly, as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, to the ques­tions he may be asked, the par­rhêsi­ast is the un­lim­ited, per­ma­nent, un­bear­able ques­tioner. Second, whereas the sage is the per­son who, against the back­ground of an es­sen­tial si­lence, speaks in rid­dles, the par­rhêsi­ast must speak, and he must speak as clearly as pos­si­ble. And fi­nally, whereas the sage says what is, but in the form of the very be­ing of things and of the world, the par­rhêsi­ast in­ter­venes, says what is, but in terms of the sin­gu­lar­ity of in­di­vid­u­als, sit­u­a­tions, and con­junc­tures. His spe­cific role is not to tell of the be­ing of na­ture and things. In the analy­sis of par­rhêsia we will con­stantly find this op­po­si­tion be­tween use­less knowl­edge which speaks of the be­ing of things and the world, on the one hand, and on the other the par­rhêsi­ast’s truth-telling which is al­ways ap­plied, ques­tions, and is di­rected to in­di­vid­u­als and sit­u­a­tions in or­der to say what they are in re­al­ity, to tell in­di­vid­u­als the truth of them­selves hid­den from their own eyes, to re­veal to them their pre­sent sit­u­a­tion, their char­ac­ter, fail­ings, the value of their con­duct, and the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of their de­ci­sions. The par­rhêsi­ast does not re­veal what is to his in­ter­locu­tor; he dis­closes or helps him to rec­og­nize what he is.

Finally, the third modal­ity of truth-telling which can be con­trasted with the par­rhêsi­ast’s truth-telling is that of the pro­fes­sor, the tech­ni­cian, [the teacher]. The prophet, the sage, the per­son who teaches.

[So, if you like, be­cause maybe some of you are a bit weary from lis­ten­ing and oth­ers from not hear­ing, some from sit­ting down and oth­ers from stand­ing, and me at any rate from speak­ing, we will stop for five or ten min­utes. And then we will meet again shortly, OK? I will try to fin­ish around 11.15. Thank you.] 


1 FEBRUARY 1984  Second hour 

I have tried then to pick out the re­la­tion­ships and dif­fer­ences be­tween the par­rhêsi­as­tic mode of truth-telling and, first, the prophetic mode of truth-telling, and then that of wis­dom. And now I would like to in­di­cate, very schemat­i­cally and al­lu­sively, some of the re­la­tions be­tween par­rhêsi­as­tic veri­dic­tion and the veri­dic­tion of some­one who teaches -I would pre­fer to say, ba­si­cally, of the tech­ni­cian. These char­ac­ters (the doc­tor, the mu­si­cian, the shoe­maker, the car­pen­ter, the teacher of armed com­bat, the gym­nas­tics teacher), fre­quently men­tioned by Plato in his Socratic and other di­a­logues, pos­sess a knowl­edge char­ac­ter­ized as tekhnê, know-how, that is to say, en­tail­ing par­tic­u­lar items of knowl­edge, but tak­ing shape in a prac­tice and in­volv­ing, for their ap­pren­tice­ship, not only a the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge, but a whole ex­er­cise (a whole aske­sis or melete). They pos­sess this knowl­edge, they pro­fess it, and they are ca­pa­ble of teach­ing it to oth­ers. The tech­ni­cian, who pos­sesses a tekhnê, has learned it, and is ca­pa­ble of teach­ing it, is some­one obliged to speak the truth, or at any rate to for­mu­late what he knows and pass it on to oth­ers; and, of course, this dis­tin­guishes him from the sage. After all, the tech­ni­cian has a cer­tain duty to speak. He is obliged, in a way, to tell the knowl­edge he pos­sesses and the truth he knows, be­cause this knowl­edge and truth are linked to a whole weight of tra­di­tion. This man of tekhnê would not him­self have been able to learn any­thing and to­day would know noth­ing at all, or very lit­tle, if there had not been, be­fore him, a tech­ni­cian (tekhnites) like him, who had taught him, whose pupil he had been, and who had been his teacher. And just as he would not have learned any­thing if some­one had not pre­vi­ously told him what they knew, so, in the same way, he will have to pass on his knowl­edge so that it does not die with him.

So, in this idea of some­one with knowl­edge of tekhnê, some­one who has re­ceived this knowl­edge and must pass it on, there is the prin­ci­ple of an oblig­a­tion to speak which is not found in the sage but is found in the par­rhêsi­ast. But clearly, this teacher, this man of tekhnê, of ex­per­tise and teach­ing, does not take any risk in the truth-telling he has re­ceived and must pass on, and this is what dis­tin­guishes him from the par­rhêsi­ast. Everyone knows, and I know first of all, that you do not need courage to teach. On the con­trary, the per­son who teaches es­tab­lishes, or at any rate hopes or some­times wants to es­tab­lish a bond of shared knowl­edge, of her­itage, of tra­di­tion, and pos­si­bly also of per­sonal recog­ni­tion or friend­ship, be­tween him­self and the per­son or per­sons who lis­ten to him. Anyway, this truth-telling es­tab­lishes a fil­i­a­tion in the do­main of knowl­edge. Now we have seen that the par­rhêsi­ast, to the con­trary, takes a risk. He risks the re­la­tion­ship he has with the per­son to whom he speaks. And in speak­ing the truth, far from es­tab­lish­ing this pos­i­tive bond of shared knowl­edge, her­itage, fil­i­a­tion, grat­i­tude, or friend­ship, he may in­stead pro­voke the oth­er’s anger, an­tag­o­nize an en­emy, he may arouse the hos­til­ity of the city, or, if he is speak­ing the truth to a bad and tyran­ni­cal sov­er­eign, he may pro­voke vengeance and pun­ish­ment. And he may go so far as to risk his life, since he may pay with his life for the truth he has told. Whereas, in the case of the tech­ni­cian’s truth-telling, teach­ing en­sures the sur­vival of knowl­edge, the per­son who prac­tices par­rhêsia risks death. The tech­ni­cian’s and teacher’s truth-telling brings to­gether and binds; the par­rhêsi­ast’s truth-telling risks hos­til­ity, war, ha­tred, and death. And if the par­rhêsi­ast’s truth may unite and rec­on­cile, when it is ac­cepted and the other per­son agrees to the pact and plays the game of par­rhêsia, this is only af­ter it has opened up an es­sen­tial, fun­da­men­tal, and struc­turally nec­es­sary mo­ment of the pos­si­bil­ity of ha­tred and a rup­ture.

We can say then, very schemat­i­cally, that the par­rhêsi­ast is not the prophet who speaks the truth when he re­veals fate enig­mat­i­cally in the name of some­one else. The par­rhêsi­ast is not a sage who, when he wants to and against the back­ground of his si­lence, tells of be­ing and na­ture (phu­sis) in the name of wis­dom. The par­rhêsi­ast is not the pro­fes­sor or teacher, the ex­pert who speaks of tekhnê in the name of a tra­di­tion. So he does not speak of fate, be­ing, or tekhnê. Rather, inas­much as he takes the risk of pro­vok­ing war with oth­ers, rather than so­lid­i­fy­ing the tra­di­tional bond, like the teacher, by [speaking] in his own name and per­fectly clearly, [unlike the] prophet who speaks in the name of some­one else, [inasmuch as] fi­nally [he tells] the truth of what is in the sin­gu­lar form of in­di­vid­u­als and sit­u­a­tions, and not the truth of be­ing and the na­ture of things, the par­rhêsi­ast brings into play the true dis­course of what the Greeks called êthos.

Fate has a modal­ity of veri­dic­tion which is found in prophecy. Being has a modal­ity of veri­dic­tion found in the sage. Tekhne has a modal­ity of veri­dic­tion found in the tech­ni­cian, the pro­fes­sor, the teacher, the ex­pert. And fi­nally, êthos has its veri­dic­tion in the speech of the par­rhêsi­ast and the game of par­rhêsia. Prophecy, wis­dom, teach­ing, and par­rhêsia are, I think, four modes of veri­dic­tion which, [first], in­volve dif­fer­ent per­son­ages, sec­ond, call for dif­fer­ent modes of speech, and third, re­late to dif­fer­ent do­mains (fate, be­ing, tekhnê, êthos).

Actually, in this sur­vey I am not es­sen­tially defin­ing four his­tor­i­cally dis­tinct so­cial types. I do not mean that there were four pro­fes­sions or four so­cial types in an­cient civ­i­liza­tion: the prophet, the sage, the teacher, and the par­rhêsi­ast. Certainly, it may be that these four ma­jor modal­i­ties of truth-telling (prophetic, wise, tech­ni­cal, and eth­i­cal or par­rhêsi­as­tic) cor­re­spond to quite dis­tinct in­sti­tu­tions, or prac­tices, or per­son­ages. One of the rea­sons why the ex­am­ple of Antiquity is priv­i­leged is pre­cisely that it en­ables us to sep­a­rate out, as it were, these dif­fer­ent [modalities] of truth-telling, these dif­fer­ent modes of veri­dic­tion. Because, in Antiquity, they are fairly clearly dis­tin­guished and em­bod­ied, for­mu­lated, and al­most in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized in dif­fer­ent forms. There is the prophetic func­tion, which was quite clearly de­fined and in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized. The char­ac­ter of the sage was also quite clearly picked out (see the por­trait of Heraclitus). You see the teacher, the tech­ni­cian, the man of tekhnê ap­pear very clearly in the Socratic di­a­logues (the Sophists were pre­cisely these kinds of tech­ni­cians and teach­ers who claimed to have a uni­ver­sal func­tion). As for the par­rhêsi­ast, his spe­cific pro­file ap­pears very clearly —we will come back to this next week— with Socrates, and then with Diogenes and a se­ries of other philoso­phers. However, as dis­tinct as these roles may be, and even if at cer­tain times, and in cer­tain so­ci­eties or civ­i­liza­tions, you see these four func­tions taken on, as it were, by very clearly dis­tinct in­sti­tu­tions or char­ac­ters, it is im­por­tant to note that fun­da­men­tally these are not so­cial char­ac­ters or roles. I in­sist on this; I would like to stress it: they are es­sen­tially modes of veri­dic­tion. It some­times hap­pens, and it will hap­pen very of­ten, even more of­ten than not, that these modes of veri­dic­tion are com­bined with each other, and we find them in forms of dis­course, types of in­sti­tu­tions, and so­cial char­ac­ters which mix the modes of veri­dic­tion with each other.

Already you can see how Socrates puts to­gether el­e­ments of prophecy, wis­dom, teach­ing, and par­rhêsia. Socrates is the par­rhêsi­ast. But you re­call: who gave him his func­tion as par­rhêsi­ast, his mis­sion to ques­tion peo­ple, to take them by the sleeve and tell them: Take some care of your­self? It was the Delphic god, the prophetic au­thor­ity which re­turned this ver­dict. When asked who was the wis­est man in Greece, it replied: Socrates. And it was in or­der to honor this prophecy, and also to honor the Delphic god lay­ing down the prin­ci­ple of know your­self,” that Socrates un­der­took his mis­sion. His func­tion as par­rhêsi­ast is not there­fore un­re­lated to this prophetic func­tion, from which he nev­er­the­less main­tains his dis­tinct­ness. Equally, al­though a par­rhêsi­ast, Socrates has a re­la­tion­ship with wis­dom. This is ev­i­dent in sev­eral traits: his per­sonal virtue, his self con­trol, his ab­sten­tion from all plea­sures, his en­durance in the face of all kinds of suf­fer­ing, and his abil­ity to de­tach him­self from the world. You re­call the fa­mous scene in which Socrates be­comes in­sen­si­ble, re­main­ing im­mo­bile, im­per­vi­ous to the cold when he was a sol­dier at war. We should also not for­get that Socrates has that, in a sense even more im­por­tant fea­ture of wis­dom, which is a par­tic­u­lar kind of si­lence, re­gard­less of every­thing. Because Socrates does not speak, he does not de­liver speeches, he does not say spon­ta­neously what he knows. On the con­trary, he claims to be some­one who does not know, and who, not know­ing and know­ing only that he does not know, will re­main re­served and silent, con­fin­ing him­self to ques­tion­ing. Questioning is, if you like, a par­tic­u­lar way of com­bin­ing the es­sen­tial re­serve of the sage, who re­mains silent, with the duty of par­rhêsia (that is to say, the duty to chal­lenge and speak). Except that the sage re­mains silent be­cause he knows and has the right not to speak of his knowl­edge, whereas Socrates re­mains silent by say­ing that he does not know, and by ques­tion­ing every­one and any­one in the man­ner of the par­rhêsi­ast. So here again you can see that the par­rhêsi­as­tic fea­ture com­bines with the fea­tures of wis­dom. And fi­nally, of course, there is the re­la­tion­ship with the tech­ni­cian, the teacher. The Socratic prob­lem is how to teach the virtue and knowl­edge re­quired to live well or also to gov­ern the city prop­erly. You re­call the Alcibiades. You re­call too —we will come back to this next week— the end of the Laches, where Socrates agrees to teach the sons of Lysimachus and [Melesias] to take care of them­selves. So Socrates is the par­rhêsi­ast, but, once again, with a per­ma­nent, es­sen­tial re­la­tion­ship to prophetic veri­dic­tion, the veri­dic­tion of wis­dom, and the tech­ni­cal veri­dic­tion of teach­ing.

So, prophecy, wis­dom, teach­ing, tech­nique, and par­rhêsia should be seen much more as fun­da­men­tal modes of truth-telling than as char­ac­ters. There is the modal­ity which speaks enig­mat­i­cally about that which is hid­den from every hu­man be­ing. There is the modal­ity of truth-telling which speaks apo­d­ic­ti­cally about be­ing, phu­sis, and the or­der of things. There is the veri­dic­tion which speaks demon­stra­tively about kinds of knowl­edge and ex­per­tise. There is fi­nally the veri­dic­tion which speaks polem­i­cally about in­di­vid­u­als and sit­u­a­tions. These four modes of truth-telling are, I be­lieve, ab­solutely fun­da­men­tal for the analy­sis of dis­course to the ex­tent that, in dis­course, the sub­ject who tells the truth is con­sti­tuted for him­self and for oth­ers. I think that since Greek cul­ture, the sub­ject who tells the truth takes these four pos­si­ble forms: he is ei­ther prophet, or sage, or tech­ni­cian, or par­rhêsi­ast. It would be in­ter­est­ing to in­ves­ti­gate how these four modal­i­ties, which, again, once and for all, are not iden­ti­fied with roles or char­ac­ters, are com­bined in dif­fer­ent cul­tures, so­ci­eties, or civ­i­liza­tions in dif­fer­ent modes of dis­cur­siv­ity, in what could be called the dif­fer­ent regimes of truth” found in dif­fer­ent so­ci­eties.

It seems to me —at any rate, this is what I have tried to show you, how­ever schemat­i­cally— that in Greek cul­ture at the end of the fifth and the be­gin­ning of the fourth cen­tury B.C.E. we can find these four ma­jor modes of veri­dic­tion dis­trib­uted in a kind of rec­tan­gle: that of prophecy and fate, that of wis­dom and be­ing, that of teach­ing and tekhnê, and that of par­rhêsia and êthos. But if these four modal­i­ties are thus quite clearly de­ci­pher­able, sep­a­ra­ble, and sep­a­rated from each other at this time, one of the fea­tures of the his­tory of an­cient phi­los­o­phy (and also no doubt of an­cient cul­ture gen­er­ally) is that there is a ten­dency for the mode of truth-telling char­ac­ter­is­tic of wis­dom and the mode of truth-telling char­ac­ter­is­tic of par­rhêsia to come to­gether, join to­gether, to link up with each other in a sort of philo­soph­i­cal modal­ity of truth-telling which is very dif­fer­ent from prophetic truth-telling as well as from the teach­ing of tekhnai, of which rhetoric is an ex­am­ple. We will see a philo­soph­i­cal truth-telling sep­a­rat­ing off, or any­way the de­vel­op­ment of a philo­soph­i­cal truth-telling which will ever more in­sis­tently claim to speak of be­ing or the na­ture of things only to the ex­tent that this truth-telling con­cerns, is rel­e­vant for, is able to ar­tic­u­late and found a truth-telling about êthos in the form of par­rhêsia. And to that ex­tent, we can say that, only up to a cer­tain point, of course, wis­dom and par­rhêsia merge. Anyway, it is as though they are at­tracted to each other, that there is some­thing like a phe­nom­e­non of grav­i­ta­tion of wis­dom and par­rhêsia, a grav­i­ta­tion which man­i­fests it­self in the fa­mous char­ac­ters of philoso­phers telling the truth of things, but above all telling their truth to men, through­out Hellenistic and Roman, or Greco-Roman cul­ture. If you like, there is the pos­si­bil­ity of an analy­sis of a his­tory of the regime of truth con­cern­ing the re­la­tions be­tween par­rhêsia and wis­dom.

If we take up again these four ma­jor fun­da­men­tal modes I have been talk­ing about, we could say that me­dieval Christianity pro­duced other group­ings. Greco-Roman phi­los­o­phy brought to­gether the modal­i­ties of par­rhêsia and wis­dom. It seems to me that in me­dieval Christianity we see an­other type of group­ing bring­ing to­gether the prophetic and par­rhêsi­as­tic modal­i­ties. The two modal­i­ties of telling the truth about the fu­ture (about what is hid­den from men by virtue of their fini­tude and the struc­ture of time, about what awaits men and the im­mi­nence of the still hid­den event), and then telling the truth to men about what they are, were brought to­gether in a num­ber of par­tic­u­lar [types] of dis­courses, and also in­sti­tu­tions. I am think­ing of preach­ing and preach­ers, and es­pe­cially of those preach­ers, start­ing with the Franciscans and Dominicans, who played an ab­solutely ma­jor role across the Western world and through-out the Middle Ages in the per­pet­u­a­tion, but also re­newal and trans­for­ma­tion [of] the ex­pe­ri­ence of threat for the me­dieval world. These great preach­ers played the role of both prophet and par­rhêsi­ast in that so­ci­ety. Those who speak of the threat­en­ing im­mi­nence of the fu­ture, of the Kingdom of the Last Day, of the Final Judgment, or of ap­proach­ing death, at the same time tell men what they are, and tell them frankly, with com­plete par­rhêsia, what their faults and crimes are, and in what re­spects and how they must change their mode of be­ing.

Counterposed to this, it seems to me that the same me­dieval so­ci­ety, the same me­dieval civ­i­liza­tion tended to bring to­gether the other two modes of veri­dic­tion: that of wis­dom, which tells of the be­ing of things and their na­ture, and that of teach­ing. Telling the truth of be­ing and telling the truth of knowl­edge was the task of an in­sti­tu­tion which was as spe­cific to the Middle Ages as was preach­ing: the University. Preaching and the University ap­pear to me to be in­sti­tu­tions spe­cific to the Middle Ages, in which we see the func­tions I have spo­ken about group­ing to­gether, in pairs, and defin­ing a regime of veri­dic­tion, a regime of truth-telling, which is very dif­fer­ent from the regime we could find in the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman world, where in­stead it was and wis­dom that were com­bined.

And what about the mod­ern epoch, you may ask? I don’t re­ally know. It would no doubt have to be an­a­lyzed. We could say per­haps —but these are hy­pothe­ses, not even hy­pothe­ses: some al­most in­co­her­ent re­marks— that you find the prophetic modal­ity of truth-telling in some po­lit­i­cal dis­courses, in rev­o­lu­tion­ary dis­course. In mod­ern so­ci­ety, rev­o­lu­tion­ary dis­course, like all prophetic dis­course, speaks in the name of some­one else, speaks in or­der to tell of a fu­ture which, up to a point, al­ready has the form of fate. The on­to­log­i­cal modal­ity of truth-telling, which speaks of the be­ing of things, would no doubt be found in a cer­tain modal­ity of philo­soph­i­cal dis­course. The tech­ni­cal modal­ity of truth-telling is or­ga­nized much more around sci­ence than teach­ing, or at any rate around a com­plex formed by sci­en­tific and re­search in­sti­tu­tions and teach­ing in­sti­tu­tions. And the par­rhêsi­as­tic modal­ity has, I be­lieve, pre­cisely dis­ap­peared as such, and we no longer find it ex­cept where it is grafted on or un­der­pinned by one of these three modal­i­ties. Revolutionary dis­course plays the role of par­rhêsi­as­tic dis­course when it takes the form of a cri­tique of ex­ist­ing so­ci­ety. Philosophical dis­course as analy­sis, as re­flec­tion on hu­man fini­tude and crit­i­cism of every­thing which may ex­ceed the lim­its of hu­man fini­tude, whether in the realm of knowl­edge or the realm of moral­ity, plays the role of par­rhêsia to some ex­tent. And when sci­en­tific dis­course is de­ployed as crit­i­cism of prej­u­dices, of ex­ist­ing forms of knowl­edge, of dom­i­nant in­sti­tu­tions, of cur­rent ways of do­ing things —and it can­not avoid do­ing this, in its very de­vel­op­ment— it plays this par­rhêsi­as­tic role. That’s what I wanted to say to you.