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Critique as technology of the self
journal contributionposted on 2005-05-01, 00:00 authored by Matthew Sharpe
This inquiry is situated at the intersection of two enigmas. The first is the enigma of the status of Kant's practice of critique, which has been the subject of heated debate since shortly after the publication of the first edition of The Critique of Pure Reason. The second enigma is that of Foucault's apparent later 'turn' to Kant, and the label of 'critique', to describe his own theoretical practice. I argue that Kant's practice of 'critique' should be read, after Foucault, as a distinctly modern practice in the care of the self, governed by Kant's famous rubric of the 'primacy of practical reason'. In this way, too, Foucault's later interest in Kant - one which in fact takes up a line present in his work from his complementary thesis on Kant's Anthropology - is cast into distinct relief. Against Habermas and others, I propose that this interest does not represent any 'break' or 'turn' in Foucault's work. In line with Foucault's repeated denials that he was interested after 1976 in a 'return to the ancients', I argue that Foucault's writings on critique represent instead both a deepening theoretical self-consciousness, and part of his project to forge an ethics adequate to the historical present.