Rhetoric and Power: An Inquiry into Foucault’s Critique of Confession

Rhetoric and Power: An Inquiry into Foucault’s Critique of Confession Dave Tell On October 10, 1979, Michel Foucault revised his thesis on confession. On that day, some three years after the publication of his magisterial treatment of confession in the first volume of The History of Sexuality, Foucault argued that the Pythagoreans, Stoics, and Epicureans had, before the advent of Christianity, their own practices of confession. Yet these practices, unlike their Christian variants, were not complicit with practices of domination (OS 310, 312). In the context of Foucault's thought theretofore, in which the confession consistently figured as an essential component in the exercise of modern power, this is a radical shift. In lectures given at both Berkeley and Dartmouth in the fall of 1980, Foucault made similar arguments. On these occasions he argued that Seneca's De ira constituted a "stoic confession," the object of which was to enable the subject to "live differently, better, more happily, than other people" (AB 210, 205). Judith Butler captures the gravity of the shift: "In the last years of his life, Foucault returned to the question of confession, reversing his earlier critique in the first volume of the History of Sexuality, where he indicts confession as a forcible extraction of sexual truth, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy and Rhetoric Penn State University Press

Rhetoric and Power: An Inquiry into Foucault’s Critique of Confession

Philosophy and Rhetoric, Volume 43 (2) – May 27, 2010

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Penn State University Press
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Copyright © Penn State University Press
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1527-2079
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Abstract

Dave Tell On October 10, 1979, Michel Foucault revised his thesis on confession. On that day, some three years after the publication of his magisterial treatment of confession in the first volume of The History of Sexuality, Foucault argued that the Pythagoreans, Stoics, and Epicureans had, before the advent of Christianity, their own practices of confession. Yet these practices, unlike their Christian variants, were not complicit with practices of domination (OS 310, 312). In the context of Foucault's thought theretofore, in which the confession consistently figured as an essential component in the exercise of modern power, this is a radical shift. In lectures given at both Berkeley and Dartmouth in the fall of 1980, Foucault made similar arguments. On these occasions he argued that Seneca's De ira constituted a "stoic confession," the object of which was to enable the subject to "live differently, better, more happily, than other people" (AB 210, 205). Judith Butler captures the gravity of the shift: "In the last years of his life, Foucault returned to the question of confession, reversing his earlier critique in the first volume of the History of Sexuality, where he indicts confession as a forcible extraction of sexual truth,

Journal

Philosophy and RhetoricPenn State University Press

Published: May 27, 2010

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