Candido 1

Luiz Candido
Paulo Wagatsuma
IFA – Intermediate
6th November 2014
The Philosophy of Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault was a very important philosopher of the 20th century. His thought has
influenced many thinkers in a great number of knowledge areas, ranging from philosophy
through sociology, history, psychology, to literature studies. Normally, Foucault’s work is
divided into three periods: archaeology of knowledge, genealogy of power, and ethics.
Each one of these periods has specific characteristics, though there are convergences of
many these characteristics, thus shaping a continuum. These periods, which we will expose
ahead, are not exclusive between them, but complete the work not realized in the preceding
period. In this short essay we have as our objective to describe the main features of the
thought of this important philosopher through his work’s phases, thereby providing a quick
introduction to his work.
In the first moment of his work, the archaeology of knowledge, Foucault intended to
provide a strong account of the changes in the ways of knowing, especially in the transition
from what he calls classical age to modernity. This kind of philosophical reflection was
developed by Foucault along the 1960s, and the major work of this period is undoubtedly
Les mots et les choses, translated into English as The Order of Things. In this book,
Foucault aims to show how new kinds of discourse emerged and when they emerged,
based on historical conceptual changes. The domains studied by the philosopher for the
investigation’s purposes are the transition from the analysis of wealth to economics, from
natural history to biology, and from general grammar to linguistics. But behind these
descriptions made by Foucault there is a broader philosophical objective: to explain how it

the genealogical approach is concerned with how the practices of power are present. in the production of knowledge and in the production of the discourses of truth. beginning in the first years of the 1970’s and reaching its higher form in the years 1975 and 1976 with. and which is a distinctive mark of his archaeology. In this moment he is mainly concerned with the consequences for ourselves of the kinds of relations we . what kinds of conditions are necessary for the truth to be possible. The genealogical approach developed by Foucault is a sequel of the archaeological approach. respectively. the idea put forward by Foucault. If in the 1970’s Foucault focused his attention on the political implications of the problem of the relationship between power and knowledge. and the first volume of the great Foucault’s project of an Histoire de la sexualité. But the ways the power relations influence production of truth are sorted. but tries to complete its gaps. This approach comes just after the former. related mainly to the implications of the power relations (in a broader sense. In short. Foucault does not abandons the idea of discursive changes producing changes in the very notions of truth. is that the discourses of truth depend on the very historical conditions to be said or written. To put it in another way. the books Surveiller et punir. power-knowledge in English. that is. In this period of his work and thought. participating actively.Candido 2 is possible. translated into English as History of Sexuality I: The Will of Know. This idea gained its fame with the expression pouvoir-savoir. This period corresponds to that acknowledged today as the ethical moment of Foucault’s work. in which “power” means the capability to influence someone’s action someway) in an individual sense. translated into English as Disciplining and Punish. at the end of his career another mutation in his thought provoked an opening to a new field of problems. but he is more concerned with the way in which the practices historically localized are involved with the production of knowledge. It does not deny the former.

In this moment. References DREYFUS. The history of sexuality: volume 3 – The Care of Self. present in all these moments.Candido 3 establish with others. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Michel. Hubert L. exercising our freedom. FOUCAULT. The work by Michel Foucault is very rich. Michel. 1974. and also in the second and third volumes of his History of sexuality. 2. New York: Vintage Books. London: Penguin Books. . Michel. FOUCAULT. Within the limits of a short account like this. 1983. 1990. Le souci de soi. Paul. translated as The Care of Self. The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences. translated as The Use of Pleasure. 1991. or to put it in another way. New York: Vintage Books. RABINOW. Michel. It offers us interesting insights and tools which can be useful to think about our reality and our lives. New York: Vintage Books. The history of sexuality: volume 2 – The Use of Pleasure. FOUCAULT. we hope to have provided a short introduction to the philosophical way run by Foucault. containing important reflections about the knowledge and its conditions. respectively. London: Routledge. and L’usage des plaisirs. he is concerned about how the relations with others constitute the way we are. 1990. Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. This approach is present in many courses and lectures given by Foucault. Michael Foucault: beyond structuralism and hermeneutics. The history of sexuality: volume 1 – An Introduction. FOUCAULT. and about subjectivity. the most important problems that Foucault deals with are the way we become ourselves constituting our subjectivity and then how to do this being free. Michel. 1990. FOUCAULT. about the politics and its relationships with the knowledge and with us.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1991. 1994. . Gary. The Cambridge companion to Foucault. Paul (Ed.). The Foucault reader. RABINOW. London: Penguin Books.Candido 4 GUTTING.