mercoledì 2 novembre 2011

Foucault and Philosophy

Timothy O'Leary and Christopher Falzon (eds.), 
Foucault and Philosophy, 
Wiley-Blackwell, 2010,

Reviewed by Ladelle McWhorter, University of Richmond

"Philosopher" was a label that Michel Foucault sometimes resisted, especially in the earlier decades of his career, but Timothy O'Leary and Christopher Falzon have assembled an excellent anthology of articles demonstrating Foucault's engagement with and contributions to contemporary philosophical practice throughout his life's work. The book examines and situates Foucault's work in relation to several major strands of philosophical tradition. It consists of an introduction and one paper each by the editors and an additional nine papers by well-known Foucault scholars including Gary Gutting, Jana Sawicki, Amy Allen, and Paul Patton, among others. There is no lack of interpretive disagreement in the group, which is especially notable in Gary Gutting's explicit critique of Béatrice Han-Pile's work and Barry Allen's implicit challenge to C.G. Prado. However, the disagreements and alternative perspectives are informative and thought-provoking.

Obviously it is impossible in one review to do justice to all eleven articles, and O'Leary and Falzon do an excellent job of summarizing them in their introduction. Here I will simply discuss four themes, each of which runs through several different papers. The first is Foucault's relation to his predecessors, including Hegel (Gutting), Nietzsche (Hans Sluga), and Heidegger (Timothy Rayner). The second is Foucault's relationship to and, in some cases, value for contemporary philosophical debates, including critical theory (Falzon and Amy Allen) and queer theory (Sawicki), as well as other discussions less easily categorized (Prado and O'Leary). Aligned with the second theme, the third theme that emerges very strongly in this collection is the question of truth and Foucault's epistemological positions. This comes out to some extent in Rayner's article on Heidegger, but it is foregrounded in Barry Allen's essay entitled "Foucault's Theory of Knowledge." Finally, I will conclude this review with a look at the theme of political theory and practice, with a focus on Paul Patton's essay, "Foucault and Normative Political Philosophy: Liberal and Neo-Liberal Governmentality and Public Reason."...

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