chapter  3
37 Pages

Voices of care, friendship, and parre-sia

In the period of the early 1980s, the years preceding his death, Foucault’s project was to develop the ideas of care of the self (epimeleia heautou), art of living (tekhne-tou biou), as well as the ethics and aesthetics of existence. Next, we will see that the “auditory-sonorous” event has its roles in this framework as well. It will turn out that Foucault did not abandon his interest in auditory-sonorous power, one that we have discovered as early as the beginning of the 1960s, but tackled the issue again in relation to the most central themes of his early 1980s thought. We will not focus on evaluating the accuracy of the readings Foucault

presents on the corpus Greco-Roman philosophy, above all Stoic, Cynic, and Epicurean. (For the criticism of Foucault’s interpretation, targeted among other things at his tendency to aestheticize, see a review essay by Pierre Hadot [1992].)1 Instead, the aim is to show how Foucault, using the corpus of ancient philosophy, elaborates an interesting idea on the tensed constellation of resistance and power, with the care for the self and logos on one side, and the event of sound on the other. As the background, we should keep in mind that Foucault is particularly

interested in ancient Greco-Roman philosophy as a practice and exercise, and as an art of living, having life or existence as such as its “materia” that it forms, shapes, and modifies, rather than contemplates. Philosophy, in this sense, is the practice and art of creating a manner or way of existing; a style or a form of life. The task is to make one’s life into a “work of art” that is beautiful and good. In this sense, there is no significant difference here between “good” and “beautiful.” This is the kernel in Foucault’s idea of the unity between ethics (as self-relation, self-government, and ascetics), and aesthetics (Foucault 2001c: 405-6; 2001b: 1221-2, 1430, 1443). Foucault states very explicitly that freedom or liberty, the free choice, is

nothing less than a necessary condition for the aesthetical-ethical creation of self. However, he wants to distance this idea from existentialist philosophy, by suggesting that what distinguishes his own account from Sartre, is above all Sartre’s attempts to set authenticity as the foundation of freedom,

whereas Foucault himself understands authenticity as only one historical modality of self-relation among others, one that actually has no constitutive role in his own view of creative freedom. In this sense, according to Foucault, his conception of aesthetic liberty/freedom, as invention of the self, is closer to Nietzsche (see Foucault 2001b: 1211-12, 1436-7, 1442; 2001c: 230-1, 405-6; cf. Nehamas 2000: 157-88).2