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|Title:||The Weakness of Words: Implications of Foucault's Late Lectures for Reflecting on the Platonic Dialogue|
|Keywords:||Plato, Foucault, the Platonic dialogue, ergon and logos, ethics, the self, Gadamer|
|Abstract:||A central claim in Foucault’s 1982-1983 lectures, published as The Government of Self and Others (2008), is that Plato, in wanting to escape the possibility that his philosophical discourse would be “mere logos,” ultimately conceived of philosophy’s “reality” or “veridication” in terms of its capacity to facilitate the “work of the self.” This thesis argues that Foucault’s analysis positions us to read Plato’s dialogues as philosophical “deeds” that aim to advise the reader with respect to his or her “mode of being.” I corroborate the analysis that leads to Foucault’s highly suggestive conclusion that a text like the Republic or the Laws must in some respect not be “serious” works and are, therefore, discursive “games” whose aims lie elsewhere than in the formulation of political prescriptions. In so doing I link Foucault’s characterization of Platonic philosophy as being informed by a “weakness” in logos to the claim, put forth by scholars attentive to the dialogic form, that Plato’s dialogues are written in deference to the obstacles that the written and even spoken word presents for the transmission of his philosophy. I claim that some of the key concepts of the later Foucault’s “ethical turn,” namely askēsis, the arts of life, and ethics construed as the work and formation of a relationship of self to self, are helpful when trying to discern not only the content of Platonic writings, but also the purpose behind their form. To the extent that the elaboration of theoretical knowledge in discourse inhibits the awareness that the subject must form a practical relationship with his or her own self, and to the extent that such a work is the fundamental task of philosophy to which the acquisition of theoretical knowledge plays a secondary role, the logos of philosophical discourse must be modified in order to facilitate this ergon “of the self.” I claim that, when we consider Foucault’s understanding of what philosophy ought to do we are equipped with a basic set of criteria for evaluating the aims and benefits of the dramatic and dialogic form of Plato’s writings and I show that an extant body of scholarship verifies such criteria are met.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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