Re: ethics and poststructuralism

At 06:59 PM 1/17/96 -0600, you wrote:

I am late to this thread, but later posts made think that it is still alive.

>I thought this was a very helful summary. Do others think that the fact
>that unlike humanism of, say a Hegelian tradition, autonomy wasn't for
>him a matter of being the same as oneself, but is a matter of movement,
>of becoming other and ungrounded--do others think this is a valid
>response on Foucault's part? Human life as a vector and a velocity?

I think that your paraphrasing of the summary is better than the summary.
especially the last sentence. The problem with the summary is that the
portayal of F's "problem" of how to secure autonomy without theoretical
grounding, is a recasting of a liberal problem. I would suggest these points:
1 securing autonomy is not a Foucauldian goal. The question is
how to open autonomous spaces, which is not a question of creating a oasis
in the midst of power but of reconfiguring power relations so that they
define new spaces. I would suggest that F's modernist symphaties should be
looked in his barely concealed admiration for the 19th century physicians
who defined life as "the sum total of processes that oppose death". One can
perhaps devise a working analysis of "autonomy" on the same lines: "a
recoding of power relations that resist dissolution".
2 F's work cannot be said to preclude the possibility of
autonomy. In fact, if power is "an action upon an action", the whole
analysis assumes the existence of an underdetermined (read "free") action.
What such analysis seems to preclude is a certain definition of autonomy
that requires autonomy to be grounded, that is, to be always already
assured, at least at the level of the concept, as if the autonomous
individual needs only find in her inner self what has always been there
(humanity reaching maturity, in Kant's term). What is left is indeed, a
"mere" posibility.

>> the source, at least potentially, of auotnmous actions. Foucault is
left in
>> his latest writings with a call for autonomy and self-determination (remnants
>> of humanism's dream of autuonmnous human life), without any theoretical
>> subject in which to ground such a hope. Foucault, is thus, left with a
>> humanist project of securing autonomy and self-determination (that most
human of attributes), grounded in a theory of the subject which denies that
autonomy is a possibility,since such a subject is devoid of that essential human
>> something that secures, at least potentially, its auotonmy.

Gabriel Ash


Partial thread listing: