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Foucault: His Thought, His Character



Foucault: His Thought, His Character

Paul Veyne

ISBN: 978-0-745-68380-5 March 2016 Polity 216 Pages

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Michel Foucault and Paul Veyne: the philosopher and the historian. Two major figures in the world of ideas, resisting all attempts at categorization. Two timeless thinkers who have long walked and fought together. In this short book Paul Veyne offers a fresh portrait of his friend and relaunches the debate about his ideas and legacy. ‘Foucault is not who you think he is’, writes Veyne; he stood neither on the left nor on the right and was frequently disowned by both. He was not so much a structuralist as a sceptic, an empiricist disciple of Montaigne, who never ceased in his work to reflect on 'truth games', on singular, constructed truths that belonged to their own time.

A unique testimony by a scholar who knew Foucault well, this book succeeds brilliantly in grasping the core of his thought and in stripping away the confusions and misunderstandings that have so often characterized the interpretation of Foucault and his work.

Introduction 1

1 In Universal History, Everything is Singular: ‘Discourse’ 5

2 There is No ‘a priori’ that is Not Historical 22

3 Foucault’s Scepticism 37

4 Archaeology 54

5 Universalism, Universals, Epigenesis: The Beginnings of Christianity 59

6 Notwithstanding Heidegger, Man is an Intelligent Animal 66

7 The Physical and Human Sciences: Foucault’s Programme 77

8 A Sociological History of Truths: Knowledge, Power, the Set-up 92

9 Was Foucault a Corrupter of the Young? Was He the Despair of the Workers’ Movement? 111

10 Foucault and Politics 125

11 Portrait of a Samurai 135

Notes 147

Index 187

"Paul Veyne's quirky and involving book is an idiosyncratic and personal tribute, which is obviously, and movingly, deeply felt."
The Philosophers' Magazine

"Foucault is well- known as one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Writing from his profound knowledge of the man, Paul Veyne here vividly brings out his character and personality."
Geoffrey Lloyd, University of Cambridge

"It is fascinating to follow Paul Veyne’s engagement with Foucault: he was extremely close to Foucault, as the celebrated history of sexuality developed as a project, and this essay, which mixes reminiscences with argument and reflection, captures a real flavour of the  intellectual excitement of those times."
Simon Goldhill, University of Cambridge

  • Paul Veyne is one of the most important French historians of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. He is well known in the English-speaking world and Polity have translated several of his books
  • Veyne was a close friend and collaborator of Foucault, and this book is an original interpretation and defence
    of Foucault and a demonstration of the continued importance and relevance of his work
  • This is a book by a one of the greatest historians of our time about one of the greatest philosophers of our
    time - this combination makes it unique
  • The book was hugely successful in France and spent many weeks on the French bestseller list