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Foucault's Critical Ethics$
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Richard A. Lynch

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823271252

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823271252.001.0001

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Freedom’s Critique

Freedom’s Critique

The Trajectories of a Foucauldian Ethics

(p.135) 4 Freedom’s Critique
Foucault's Critical Ethics

Richard A. Lynch

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines the trajectories and resources for ethics that emerge from Michel Foucault’s account of power. More specifically, it explains how critique and freedom—two key concepts at the heart of Foucauldian ethics within power—enable Foucault to articulate and ground a pragmatic justification of his ethical project. To understand Foucault’s ethical development, the chapter considers the “new theoretical basis” that he articulated for ethics in the Introduction to The Use of Pleasure (volume 2 of The History of Sexuality, published in 1984). It also expounds on the four principal trajectories along which Foucault’s ethical thought developed: the exploration of “bodies and pleasures” as sites of resistance to the disciplinary production of sexuality and desire; the friendship and caring that emerge within homosexual relations; “critique” as an attitude and virtue; and the ethical import of ontological freedom. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how Foucault relates freedom as the basis of ethics and as the condition of possibility for power relations to the concept of “governmentality”.

Keywords:   ethics, Michel Foucault, power, critique, freedom, The Use of Pleasure, sexuality, homosexual relations, power relations, governmentality

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