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The Courage of Truth

The Government of Self and Others II; Lectures at the Collège de France, 1983-1984

Michel Foucault; Translated by Graham Burchell; Edited by Frédéric Gros; General Editors: François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana; English Series Editor: Arnold I. Davidson

Picador

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ISBN10: 1250009103
ISBN13: 9781250009104

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384 Pages

$23.00

CA$32.99

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The course given by Michel Foucault from February to March 1984, under the title The Courage of Truth, was his last at the Collège de France. His death shortly after, on June 25th, tempts us to detect a philosophical testament in these lectures, especially in view of the prominence they give to the theme of death, notably through a reinterpretation of Socrates' last words—"Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius"—which, with Georges Dumezil, Foucault understands as the expression of a profound gratitude towards philosophy for its cure of the only serious illness: that of false opinions and prejudices. These lectures continue and radicalize the analyses ot those of the previous year. Foucault's 1983 lectures investigated the function of "truth telling" in politics in order to establish courage and conviction as ethical conditions for democracy irreducible to the formal rules of consensus. With the Cynics, this manifestation of the truth no longer appears simply as a risky speaking out, but in the very substance of existence. In fact, Foucault offers an incisive study of ancient Cynicism as practical philosophy, athleticism of the truth, public provocation, and ascetic sovereignty. The scandal of the true life is constructed in opposition to Platonism and its world of transcendent intelligible Forms. "There is no establishment of the truth without an essential position of otherness. The truth is never the same. There can be truth only in the form of the other world and the other life.

Reviews

Praise for The Courage of Truth

"In this, the final year of his lectures at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault reaches more deeply into the foundations of Western thought than ever. Emphasizing parrhesia, the ancient practice of speaking truth to power, he shows how it is a practice of care of the self, and in so doing, demonstrates how the dictum 'know oneself' is only a part of our philosophical inheritance. This is an astonishing conclusion to the life's work of one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers."—Thomas Dumm, Amherst College

"In his powerful final course of lectures, expertly edited by Frédéric Gros and sympathetically translated by Graham Burchell, Foucault provides an explicitly political focus to his work on parrhesia. He offers readings of a range of texts, of which those of the Apology and the Cynics are especially insightful. It is impossible to read these lectures without an eye to the links between his work and his life, but Foucault's attention remains on the material at hand and his long-running interest in the interrelations of truth, power, and the subject."—Stuart Elden, Durham University (United Kingdom)

"[Foucault] has an alert and sensitive mind that can ignore the familiar surfaces of established intellectual codes and ask new questions . . . [He] gives dramatic quality to the movement of culture."The New York Review of Books

"Foucault is quite central to our sense of where we are."The Nation

"In this, the final year of his lectures at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault reaches more deeply into the foundations of Western thought than ever. Emphasizing parrhesia, the ancient practice of speaking truth to power, he shows how it is a practice of care of the self, and in so doing, demonstrates how the dictum 'know oneself' is only a part of our philosophical inheritance. This is an astonishing conclusion to the life's work of one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers."—Thomas Dumm, Amherst College"These lectures offer important insights into the evolution of the primary focus of Foucault's later work—the relationship between power and knowledge."—Library Journal

"Ideas spark off nearly every page . . . The words may have been spoken in [the 1970s], but they seem as alive and relevant as if they had been written yesterday."—Bookforum



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword: François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana

ONE 1 February 1984: First Hour
Epistemological structures and alethurgic forms. —Genealogy of the study of parrhesia: practices of truth-telling about oneself. —The master of existence in the domain of the care of self. —Its main defining feature: parrhesia. —Reminder of the political origin of the notion. —Double value of parrhesia. —Structural features: truth, commitment, and risk. —The parrhesiastic pact. —Parrhesia versus rhetoric. —Parrhesia as a specific modality of truth-telling. —Differential study of two other kinds of truth-telling in ancient culture: prophecy and wisdom. —Heraclitus and Socrates.

TWO 1 February 1984: Second Hour
The truth-telling of the technician. —The object of parrhesiastic truth-telling: ethos. —The composition of four truth-tellings in Socrates. —Philosophical truth-telling as joining together of the functions of wisdom and parrhesia. —Preaching and the university in the Middle Ages. —A new combinatorial structure of truth-telling. —The reconfiguration of the four modalities of veridiction in the modern epoch.

THREE 8 February 1984: First Hour
Parrhesia in Euripides: a privilege of the well-born citizen. —Criticism of democratic parrhesia: harmful for the city and dangerous for the person who exercises it. —Socrates' political reserve. —The blackmail-challenge of Demosthenes. —The impossibility of ethical differentiation in democracy: the example of the Constitution of the Athenians. —Four principles of Greek political thought. —The Platonic reversal. —Aristotelian hesitation. —The problem of ostracism.

FOUR 8 February 1984: Second Hour
Truth and the tyrant. —The example of Hiero. —The example of Pisistratus. —Psukhe as site of ethical differentiation. —Return to Plato's Letter VII. —Isocrates' speech to Nicocles. —The transformation of a democratic into an autocratic parrhesia. —Specificity of philosophical discourse.

FIVE 15 February 1984: First Hour
The danger of forgetfulness of self. —Socrates' refusal of political commitment. —Solon confronting Pisistratus. —The risk of death: the story of the Generals of the Arginusae and Leon of Salamis. —The Delphic oracle. —Socrates' response to the oracle: verification and inquiry. —Object of the mission: the care of self. —Irreducibility of Socratic veridiction. —Emergence of a specifically ethical parrhesia. —The cycle of Socrates' death as ethical foundation of the care of self.

SIX 15 February 1984: Second Hour
Socrates' last words. —The great classical interpretations. —Dumézil's dissatisfaction. —Life is not a disease. —The solutions of Wilamowitz and Cumont. —Crito cured of general opinion. —False opinion as disease of the soul. —The objections of Cebes and Simmias to the immortality of the soul. —The joint commitment of souls in discourse. —Return to the care of self. —Socrates' testament.

SEVEN 22 February 1984: First Hour
Etymological questions around epimeleia. —Dumézil's method and its extension. —Plato's Laches: reasons for choosing this text. —The pact of frankness. —The problem of the education of children. —The contradictory judgments of Laches and Nicias on the demonstration of armed combat. —The question of technical competence according to Socrates. —Socrates' reversal of the dialectical game.

EIGHT 22 February 1984: Second Hour
Socrates and the complete and continuous examination of oneself. —Bios as object of Socratic parrhesia. —The symphony of discourse and action. —Conclusions of the dialogue: final submission to the logos.

NINE 29 February 1984: First Hour
The circle of truth and courage. —Comparison of the Alcibiades and the Laches. —Metaphysics of the soul and aesthetics of existence. —The true life and the beautiful life. —The articulation of truth-telling on mode of life in Cynicism. —Parrhesia as the major characteristic of the Cynic: texts from Epictetus, Diogenes Laertius, and Lucian. —Definition of the relationship between truth-telling and mode of life: instrumental, reductive, and test functions. —Life as theater of truth.

TEN 29 February 1984: Second Hour
Hypotheses concerning the descendants of Cynicism. —Religious descendants: Christian asceticism. —Political descendants: revolution as style of existence. —Aesthetic descendants: modern art. —Anti-Platonism and anti-Aristotelianism of modern art.

ELEVEN 7 March 1984: First Hour
Bibliographical information. —Two contrasting Cynic characters: Demetrius and Peregrinus. —Two contrasting presentations of Cynicism: as imposture or universal of philosophy. —Doctrinal narrowness and broad social presence of Cynicism. —Cynic teaching as armature of life. —The theme of the two ways. —Traditionality of doctrine and traditionality of existence. —Philosophical heroism. —Goethe's Faust.

TWELVE 7 March 1984: Second Hour
The problem of the true life. —The four meanings of truth: unconcealed; unalloyed; straight (droit); unchanging. —The four meanings of true love in Plato. —The four meanings of the true life in Plato. —The motto of Diogenes: "Change the value of the currency."

THIRTEEN 14 March 1984: First Hour
The Cynic paradox, or Cynicism as scandalous banality of philosophy. —Eclecticism with reverse effect. —The three forms of courage of the truth. —The problem of the philosophical life. —Traditional components of the philosophical life: armature for life; care of self; useful knowledge; conformable life. —Interpretations of the Cynic precept: transform the values. —The label "dog." —The two lines of development of the true life: Alcibiades or Laches.

FOURTEEN 14 March 1984: Second Hour
The unconcealed life: Stoic version and Cynic transvaluation. —The traditional interpretation of the unalloyed life: independence and purity. —Cynic poverty: real, active, and indefinite. —The pursuit of dishonor. —Cynic humiliation and Christian humility. —Cynic reversal of the straight life. —The scandal of animality.

FIFTEEN 21 March 1984: First Hour
The Cynic reversal of the true life into an other life (vie autre). —The traditional sense of the sovereign life: the helpful and exemplary sage. —The theme of the philosopher king. —The Cynic transformation: the confrontation between Diogenes and Alexander. —Praise of Heracles. —The idea of philosophical militancy. —The king of derision. —The hidden king.

SIXTEEN 21 March 1984: Second Hour
Reading of Epictetus on the Cynic life (Book III, xxii). —Stoic elements of the portrait. —The philosophical life: from rational choice to divine vocation. —Ascetic practice as verification. —Ethical elements of the Cynic mission: endurance, vigilance, inspection. —The responsibility for
humanity. —Government of the world.

SEVENTEEN 28 March 1984: First Hour
The two aspects of the Cynic life as sovereign life: bliss and manifestation of truth. —The Cynic standpoint: conformity to the truth, self-knowledge, and supervision of others. —The transformation of self and the world. —Transition to Christian asceticism: continuities. —Differences: the other world and the principle of obedience.

EIGHTEEN 28 March 1984: Second Hour
The use of the term parrhesia in the first pre-Christian texts: human and divine modalities. —Parrhesia in the New Testament: confident faith and openness of heart. —Parrhesia in the Fathers: insolence. —Development of an anti-parrhesiastic pole: suspicious knowledge of self. —The truth of life as condition of access to an other world (un monde autre).

Course Context
Index of concepts and notions
Index of names

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Michel Foucault; Translated by Graham Burchell; Edited by Frédéric Gros; General Editors: François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana; English Series Editor: Arnold I. Davidson

Michel Foucault, acknowledged as the preeminent philosopher of France in the 1970s and 1980s, continues to have enormous impact throughout the world in many disciplines. He died in 1984.

Arnold I. Davidson is the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and professor of the History of Political Philosophy at the University of Pisa. He is coeditor of the volume Michel Foucault: Philosophie.

Graham Burchell is a Translator, and has written essays on Michel Foucault. He is an editor of The Foucault Effect.

Michel Foucault

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