Foucault: A Very Short Introduction

OUP Oxford
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Foucault is one of those rare philosophers who has become a cult figure. Born in 1926 in France, over the course of his life he dabbled in drugs, politics, and the Paris SM scene, all whilst striving to understand the deep concepts of identity, knowledge, and power. From aesthetics to the penal system; from madness and civilisation to avant-garde literature, Foucault was happy to reject old models of thinking and replace them with versions that are still widely debated today. A major influence on Queer Theory and gender studies (he was openly gay and died of an AIDS-related illness in 1984), he also wrote on architecture, history, law, medicine, literature, politics and of course philosophy, and even managed a best-seller in France on a book dedicated to the history of systems of thought. Because of the complexity of his arguments, people trying to come to terms with his work have desperately sought introductory material that makes his theories clear and accessible for the beginner. Ideally suited for the Very Short Introductions series, Gary Gutting presents a comprehensive but non-systematic treatment of some highlights of Foucault's life and thought. Beginning with a brief biography to set the social and political stage, he then tackles Foucault's thoughts on literature, in particular the avant-garde scene; his philosophical and historical work; his treatment of knowledge and power in modern society; and his thoughts on sexuality. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
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About the author

Gary Gutting is considered a leading expert on Foucault. Currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Gutting has published several works on Foucault, including French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (CUP, 2001); Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Scientific Reason (CUP, 1989); and was the editor of he Cambridge Companion to Foucault (CUP, 1994).
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Additional Information

Publisher
OUP Oxford
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Published on
Mar 24, 2005
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Pages
144
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ISBN
9780191578045
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Semiotics & Theory
Philosophy / History & Surveys / General
Philosophy / Language
Philosophy / Political
Political Science / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Gender Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The late 20th century saw a remarkable flourishing of philosophy in France. The work of French philosophers is wide ranging, historically informed, often reaching out beyond the boundaries of philosophy; they are public intellectuals, taken seriously as contributors to debates outside the academy. Gary Gutting tells the story of the development of a distinctively French philosophy in the last four decades of the 20th century. His aim is to arrive at an account of what it was to 'do philosophy' in France, what this sort of philosophizing was able to achieve, and how it differs from the analytic philosophy dominant in Anglophone countries. His initial focus is on the three most important philosophers who came to prominence in the 1960s: Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Derrida. He sets out the educational and cultural context of their work, as a basis for a detailed treatment of how they formulated and began to carry out their philosophical projects in the 1960s and 1970s. He gives a fresh assessment of their responses to the key influences of Hegel and Heidegger, and the fraught relationship of the new generation to their father-figure Sartre. He concludes that Foucault, Derrida, and Deleuze can all be seen as developing their fundamental philosophical stances out of distinctive readings of Nietzsche. The second part of the book considers topics and philosophers that became prominent in the 1980s and 1990s, such as the revival of ethics in Levinas, Derrida, and Foucault, the return to phenomenology and its use to revive religious experience as a philosophical topic, and Alain Badiou's new ontology of the event. Finally Gutting brings to the fore the meta-philosophical theme of the book, that French philosophy since the 1960s has been primarily concerned with thinking the impossible.
The late 20th century saw a remarkable flourishing of philosophy in France. The work of French philosophers is wide ranging, historically informed, often reaching out beyond the boundaries of philosophy; they are public intellectuals, taken seriously as contributors to debates outside the academy. Gary Gutting tells the story of the development of a distinctively French philosophy in the last four decades of the 20th century. His aim is to arrive at an account of what it was to 'do philosophy' in France, what this sort of philosophizing was able to achieve, and how it differs from the analytic philosophy dominant in Anglophone countries. His initial focus is on the three most important philosophers who came to prominence in the 1960s: Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Derrida. He sets out the educational and cultural context of their work, as a basis for a detailed treatment of how they formulated and began to carry out their philosophical projects in the 1960s and 1970s. He gives a fresh assessment of their responses to the key influences of Hegel and Heidegger, and the fraught relationship of the new generation to their father-figure Sartre. He concludes that Foucault, Derrida, and Deleuze can all be seen as developing their fundamental philosophical stances out of distinctive readings of Nietzsche. The second part of the book considers topics and philosophers that became prominent in the 1980s and 1990s, such as the revival of ethics in Levinas, Derrida, and Foucault, the return to phenomenology and its use to revive religious experience as a philosophical topic, and Alain Badiou's new ontology of the event. Finally Gutting brings to the fore the meta-philosophical theme of the book, that French philosophy since the 1960s has been primarily concerned with thinking the impossible.
“A brilliant demonstration of what philosophy can do and how it is essential to human integrity and identity.”—Simon Critchley, coeditor of The Stone Reader

How can we have meaningful debates with political opponents?
How can we distinguish reliable science from over-hyped media reports?
How can we talk sensibly about God?

In What Philosophy Can Do, Gary Gutting takes a philosopher’s scalpel to modern life’s biggest questions and the most powerful forces in our society—politics, science, religion, education, and capitalism—to show how we can improve our discussions of contentious contemporary issues.

Gutting introduces readers to powerful analytic tools in the philosopher’s arsenal that they can use to make new sense of current debates. One such tool is a crucial distinction between inductive and deductive reasoning that explains why both sides on a disputed issue often are sure they have compelling cases for their views. Another is the Principle of Charity, which requires opposing parties to present each other’s arguments in their strongest forms—a tool that would make critiques both more respectful and more effective. Gutting also shows how concepts introduced by philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Michel Foucault and John Rawls can clarify public discussions about morality, the economy, and medicine.

From informed assessments of scientific claims to careful analyses of arguments for and against religious belief, Gutting brings a calm, clear-headed approach to some of the most divisive issues on the table today. He scrutinizes our relationship to work and freedom in capitalism; our modern understanding of happiness and the good life; the value of liberal arts education and the humanities; the role of science and politics in shaping public policy today; and the value of art and popular culture. Perhaps most meaningfully, Gutting shows how we can talk about our own deepest beliefs clearly and directly, while listening to what others have to say to us. What Philosophy Can Do makes a powerful case for philosophy’s importance to public discussions, and shows us that this ancient tradition of inquiry may yet have much to say about our future.

Through interviews with twelve distinguished philosophers—including atheists, agnostics, and believers—Talking God works toward a philosophical understanding and evaluation of religion. Along the way, Gary Gutting and his interviewees challenge many common assumptions about religious beliefs.

As tensions simmer, and often explode, between the secular and the religious forces in modern life, the big questions about human belief press ever more urgently. Where does belief, or its lack, originate? How can we understand and appreciate religious traditions different from our own? Featuring conversations with twelve skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and believers—including Alvin Plantinga, Philip Kitcher, Michael Ruse, and John Caputo—Talking God offers new perspectives on religion, including the challenge to believers from evolution, cutting-edge physics and cosmology; arguments both for and against atheism; and meditations on the value of secular humanism and faith in the modern world. Experts offer insights on Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as Judaism and Christianity. Topical and illuminating, Talking God gives readers a deeper understanding of faith today and how philosophers understand it.

From Talking God:

“[Some say] Buddhism is not a religion because Buddhists don’t believe in a supreme being. This simply ignores the fact that many religions are not theistic in this sense. Chess is a game, despite the fact that it is not played with a ball, after all.”—Jay Garfield, from chapter 10, “Buddhism: Religion Without Divinity”

“Why think that the creator was all-knowing and omnipotent?— Maybe the creator was a student god, and only got a B minus on this project?”—Louise Antony, from chapter 2, “A Case for Atheism”

“There are a large number—maybe a couple of dozen—of pretty good theistic arguments. None is conclusive, but each, or at any rate the whole bunch taken together, is about as strong as philosophical arguments ordinarily get.”—Alvin Plantinga, from chapter 1, “A Case for Theism”

“If you cease to ‘believe’ in a particular religious creed, like Calvinism or Catholicism, you have changed your mind and adopted a new position— But if you lose ‘faith,’—everything is lost. You have lost your faith in life, lost hope in the future, lost heart, and you cannot go on.”—John Caputo, from chapter 3, “Religion and Deconstruction”

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