Excerpts from Foucault’s Technologies of Self

The following excerpts were lifted form Michel Foucault’s Technologies of the Self. These sections were the most significant to me and so I am storing them here for when I might need them.

image grabbed from last.fm

The art of listening is crucial so you can tell what is true and what is dissimulation, what is rhetorical truth and what is falsehood in the discourse of the rhetoricans. Listening is linked to the fact that you’re not under the control of the masters but you must listen to logos. You keep silent at the lecture. You think about it afterward. This is the art of listening to the voice of the master and the voice of reason in yourself.

It is this administrative view of life much more than the juridical model that is important. Seneca isn’t a judge who has to punish but a stock-taking administrator. He is a permanent administrator of himself, not a judge of his past. He sees that everything has been done correctly following the rule but not the law. It is not real faults for which he reproaches himself but rather his lack of success. His errors are of strategy, not of moral character. He wants to make adjustments between what he wanted to do and what he had done and reactivate the rules of conduct, not excavate his guilt. In Christian confession, the penitent is obliged to memorize laws but does so in order to discover his sins. 

In Christianity asceticism always refers to a certain renunciation of the self and of reality because most of the time your self is a part of that reality you have to renounce in order to get access to another level of reality. This move to attain the renunciation of the self distinguishes Christian asceticism. 

 In the philosophical tradition dominated by Stoicism, askesis means not renunciation but the progressive consideration of self, or mastery over oneself, obtained not through the renunciation of reality but through the acquisition and assimilation of truth. It has as its final aim not preparation for another reality but access to the reality of this world. The Greek word for this is paraskeuazõ (“to get prepared”). It is a set of practices by which one can acquire, assimilate, and transform truth into a permanent principle of action. Alethia becomes ethos. It is a process of becoming more subjective. 

 What are the principle features of askesis? They include exercises in which the subject puts himself into a situation in which he can verify whether he can confront events and use the discourse with which he is armed. It is a question of testing the preparation. Is this truth assimilated enough to become ethics so that we can behave as we must when an event presents itself?


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