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Title: A sceptical aesthetics of existence : the case of Michel Foucault
Author: Simos, Emmanouil
ISNI:       0000 0004 7426 4228
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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A Sceptical Aesthetics of Existence: The Case of Michel Foucault Emmanouil Simos (Hughes Hall) Michel Foucault's genealogical investigations constitute a specific historical discourse that challenges the metaphysical hypostatisation of concepts and methodological approaches as unique devices for tracking metaphysically objective truths. Foucault's notion of aesthetics of existence, his elaboration of the ancient conceptualisation of ethics as an 'art of living' (a technē tou biou), along with a series of interconnected notions (such as the care of the self) that he developed in his later work, have a triple aspect. First, these notions are constitutive parts of his later genealogies of subjectivity. Second, they show that Foucault contemplates the possibility of understanding ethics differently, opposed to, for example, the traditional Kantian conceptualisation of morality: he envisages ethics in terms of self-fashioning, of aesthetic transformation, of turning one's life into a work of art. Third, Foucault employs these notions in self-referential way: they are considered to describe his own genealogical work. This thesis attempts to show two things. First, I defend the idea that the notion of aesthetics of existence was already present in a constitutive way from the beginning of his work, and, specifically, I argue that it can be traced in earlier moments of his work. Second, I defend the idea that this notion of aesthetics of existence is best understood in terms of the sceptical stance of Sextus Empiricus. It describes an ethics of critique of metaphysics that can be understood as a nominalist, contextualist, and particularist stance. The first chapter discusses Foucault's late genealogy of the subject. It formulates the interpretative framework within which Foucault's own conceptualisation of the aesthetics of existence can be understood as a sceptical stance, itself conceived as nominalist, contextualist and particularist. As the practice of an aesthetics of existence is not abstract and ahistorical but the engagement with the specific historical circumstances within which this practice is undertaken, the second chapter reconstructs the intellectual context from which Foucault's thought has emerged (Heidegger, Blanchot, and Nietzsche). The third chapter discusses representative examples of different periods of Foucault's thought -such as the "Introduction" to Binswanger's "Traum und Existenz" (1954), Histoire de la folie (1961), and Histoire de la sexualité I. La volonté de savoir (1976)- and shows in which way they constitute concrete instantiations of his sceptical aesthetics of existence. The thesis concludes with responses to a number of objections to the sceptical stance here defended.
Supervisor: James, Ian Sponsor: State Scholarships Foundation (IKY) (Greece) ; Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (Greece)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Michel Foucault ; Scepticism ; Sceptical stance ; Aesthetics of existence ; Art of living ; Care of the self ; Sextus Empiricus ; Nominalism ; Contextualism ; Particularism ; Genealogy ; Subjectivity ; Power ; Historicism ; Cynics ; Problematisation ; Games of truth ; Truth-telling ; Spirituality ; Ethics ; Modern philosophy ; Ancient philosophy ; Diogenes of Sinope ; Maurice Blanchot ; Martin Heidegger ; Friedrich Nietzsche ; Ludwig Binswanger ; Edmund Husserl