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Colin Koopman: “Pleasure and Parrhesia in Foucault’s Self-Transformative Ethics”
March 31, 2011 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm | Cowell Conference Room
Michel Foucault’s late writings on ethics have been subjected to severe scrutiny by a host of critics. I suggest that these criticisms have for the most part been misguided because of a meta-ethical error too often relied upon in interpretations of Foucault. I offer a distinction between ethical ‘orientations’ and ethical ‘commitments’. Rather than offering substantive normative content, I argue, Foucault’s ethics are an attempt to specify a formal mode or style of ethical practice which can gain determinate normative content only in contexts of actual ethical practice. The guiding ethical orientation in Foucault’s late writings is, I argue, self-transformation as a practice of freedom. After defending Foucault along these lines, I discuss how self-transformation helps us understand the relatively more determinate ethical conceptions of pleasure and parrhesia (fearless speech) developed in Foucault’s late writings. I conclude with some sharp questions about the lack of sufficient determinate ethical content in these conceptions, thus opening the possibility for supplementing Foucault’s ethics with the work of other self-transformative moral philosophers, including for
instance William James.
Professor Colin Koopman (BA Evergreen State College 1998, MA Leeds University 1999, PhD McMaster University 2006) will be speaking at 4:00 on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at the Philosophy department colloquium held in the Cowell Conference Room. This event is free and open to the campus community. His area of specialty includes but is not limited to Pragmatism & American Philosophy, Genealogy & Critical Theory, Political & Social Philosophy, etc. Professor Koopman was awarded a Doctoral Fellowship (04-06) and Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (06-08) for his work with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. More recently he received the Robert F. and Evelyn Nelson Wulf Professorship, as well as the Oregon Humanities Center Teaching Fellowship (11-12). He has taught at UC Santa Cruz (08-09) and currently resides as a Assistant Professor at University of Oregon. He has also given courses as a visiting lecture at UC Berkeley’s School of Information (09).