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Foucault and the Indefinite Work of Freedom

Réal Fillion

Publication Year: 2012

This work underscores the need to examine history philosophically, not only to better appreciate how it unfolds and relates to our own unfolding lives, but to better appreciate our free engagement in this changing world. Linking a conception of ourselves as free beings to the historical process was of central importance to the classical speculative philosophies of history of the nineteenth century, most notably Hegel’s. Michel Foucault’s work is often taken to be the antithesis of this kind of speculative approach.
This book argues that Foucault, on the contrary, like Hegel, sees freedom as tied to the self-movement of thought as it realizes and shapes the world. Unlike Hegel, however, he does not see in that self-movement the process of Spirit reconciling itself with the world and thereby realizing itself as freedom. Rather, he sees in the freedom at the core of the self-movement of thought a possible threat around which that movement consolidates itself and gives shape to the world.
Foucault’s work is therefore not a simple rejection of Hegel’s speculative philosophy of history, but rather an inversion of the manner in which history and freedom are related: for Hegel history realizes or actualizes the “idea” of freedom, whereas for Foucault freedom realizes or actualizes the “materiality” of history.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Philosophica


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-5

Table of Contents

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p. 6-6

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pp. ix-x

The following chapters incorporate material previously published. Chapter One incorporates, with modifications, text published...

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pp. 1-50

Like our lives, does history unfold? To what extent is history relevant to our attempts to make sense of our unfolding lives? These are the underlying questions that animate the...

A. Philosophical Underpinnings

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pp. 51-52

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I. Foucault and the Idea of History

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pp. 53-110

My concern in the general introduction was with the speculative philosophy of history and with raising the question of its relevance...

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II. History Considered Generally: Thinking Freedom through Domination

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pp. 111-152

In the last chapter, my aim was to place Foucault’s work within the general field of history as a preoccupation for philosophers of history...

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III. Foucault after Hyppolite: Toward an A-Theistic Theodicy

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pp. 153-204

My primary concern in this book is to explore the way Michel Foucault’s work challenges the notion that a sense of history (like the sense of history developed in classical philosophies...

B. The Histories

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pp. 205-206

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IV. Madness and the Cunning of Reason

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pp. 207-262

Why are Foucault’s histories so disconcerting? as Charles Taylor perspicuously pointed...

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V. A Contrastive History of Punitive Reason

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pp. 263-326

They usually lie just on the outskirts of our cities, neither surrounded by trees nor shrouded in mist. On the contrary, were it not for the barbed...

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VI. From History as Self-Awareness to Self-Wariness through History

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pp. 327-386

What kind of sense of history does one retain after having read Discipline and Punish? Many no doubt see in this history of the prison a kind of metaphor of our world: we are...

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Conclusion: The Indefinite and Undefined Work of Freedom as History

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pp. 387-418

Neither a postulate nor a presupposition, freedom is the work of history. This is the basic claim of the philosophy of history as I understand it. Turning one’s attention to history...

Works Cited

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pp. 419-430


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pp. 431-467

E-ISBN-13: 9780776619989
E-ISBN-10: 0776619985
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776607818
Print-ISBN-10: 776607812

Page Count: 478
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Philosophica