Discourse and Foucault's notion of Care of the Self

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Foucault raises three points about ‘true discourse’ and ‘the care of the self’ 'The Hermeneutic of the Subject'

  1. The first relates to the question of their nature. While there was significant controversy between the Stoics and Epicureans about the function of discourse in self-care, both schools emphasis discourse as something initially external to the subject. To paraphrase Foucault, ‘true discourse’ emphasizes our place in the world, in the natural order. They in no way attempt to decipher our thoughts and feelings (100).
  2. The second point about discourse relates to the subject's assimilation of the techniques, a process that lies beyond simple memorization. Foucault writes: ‘While Plutarch and Seneca suggest instead is the absorption of a truth imparted by a teaching, a reading, or a piece of advice; and one assimilates it so thoroughly that it becomes part of oneself, an abiding, always-active, inner principle of action’ (101).
  3. The third point concerns methods of internalization, which Foucault observes include: listening, writing and habitual self-reflection.

Importantly, the discourse underpinning 'care of the self' is enacted through multifarious social relations. These include: schools, work with private counselors, family and friend relations and various Others. This is because it was generally accepted that one could not effectively attend to one's own development. 'Seneca said that no one was ever strong enough on his own to get out of the state of stultitia he was in: "He needs someone to extend him a hand and pull him free' (98).

Similarly, several members of CP serve as informal, peer-counselors. Through both their modeling and advice they facilitate one another's personal 'soul service'. To acknowledge the techniques comprising this support, I propose to develop a list of collaborative competencies as a shared resource for Critical Practice.


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