Parrhesia and the Care of the Self: Foucault, Patočka, and Dissident Praxis

Seminars and Colloquia

Foucault and Patočka consider the care of the self and the care of the soul as a central philosophical and ethical tradition that can be traced, at least in part, to Socratic practices. For Foucault, “care,” or epimeleia, is articulated in terms of courageous speech. This parrhesia can be understood as an ethical aesthetics of the self; one which carries a risk, a commitment to truth, and a self-determining. 

For Patočka, “care” can be understood as the practice of what he describes as a “spiritual” person; that is, a person who is alert to the philosophical aspects of the soul in the legacy of Socratic questioning. These spiritual practices open up the possibility of a life lived in truth.

Both articulations of “care” offer a model, a practice, or a praxis that can potentially offer resistance to problematic social norms and political power. In this way, Darren Gardner discussed how both thinkers can be seen to contribute to an understanding of dissidence, and how that dissidence can be viewed in the light of a long but underappreciated tradition of cynic philosophical praxis.

Darren M. Gardner is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University's Liberal Studies department, specializing in Ancient and History of Philosophy. His research delves into Ancient Metaphysics, particularly Plato's Parmenides, exploring the intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of education. His work extends to modern and post-modern continental thinkers, examining the influence of cynic praxis on figures like Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Foucault. He is also developing a research project on Cynicism and its history and reception from Socrates to Sloterdijk.

Ludger Hagedorn, IWM Permanent Fellow, provided commentary and moderated the colloquium discussion.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.