In his last years lecturing at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault repeatedly alighted on the figure of the psychagogue as an exemplar of “living philosophy.” The psychagogue, in contradistinction to his confrere the pedagogue, addresses the truth by addressing the soul, the psyche, truthfully. At the Greek inception of the politics-philosophy nexus, Foucault argues, psychagogy offered a tekhne for governing this conjoint truth practice and thereby affecting its decisions, even while remaining “nonpolitical.” By tracing some of Foucault’s ideas about the ways that truth, life, politics, and thinking coincide, this essay recasts the concerns about “Foucault’s politics” that have never ceased to vex his readers throughout the thirty years since his death and asks instead whether Foucault, given his recurrent interest, was implicitly proffering his own philosophical practice as a psychagogical one, as a lively practice through which both he and his auditors might be transformed; whether he saw his writing and teaching as an activity that performs a “necessary function with regard to politics,” even if it was not itself what some might call “properly political”; and if so, what this might mean for the way Foucault’s thinking about the tensions between politics and philosophy, between life and truth, can be read.
Ed Cohen; Live Thinking, or the Psychagogy of Michel Foucault. differences 1 September 2014; 25 (2): 1–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2773418
Download citation file: