Michel Foucault’s Theory of Practices of the Self and the Quest for a New Philosophical Anthropology

in Peace, Culture, and Violence
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The paper examines Michel Foucault’s theory of the practices of the self and its contribution to the emergence of a new philosophical anthropology. It is focused on Foucault’s analysis of the history of practices of the self in Christianity, mainly of the practices of confession and of pastoral power, paying special attention to his critique of the Western “morality of asceticism” and “self-renunciation” as a form of control of individuals and domination. Foucault saw an alternative in Hellenistic model of practices of the self, which inspired him to sketch an ethics of taking care of oneself as a practice of freedom. Taking care of the self always aims for the well-being of others, which implies that power relations should be managed in a nonauthoritarian manner. The postulate of this morality was that free persons properly care for themselves are able to relate properly to others. Foucault’s theory is considered an important step toward a new philosophical anthropology. Its further development is traced in “synergic anthropology” based on the spiritual tradition and practices of Eastern Orthodox Christian hesychasm. In the world spiritual traditions, despite their differences, spiritual practices share some universal ontological and anthropological elements. The universal elements of spiritual practices can facilitate communication among people from different religious backgrounds and dialogue between their respective traditions. The practices of the self and spiritual practices, philosophically conceptualized in a new anthropology, promote the ideas of human freedom, justice, and peace.

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