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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/3/19

Michel Foucault's Late Thought about Certain Christian Practices (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) February 3, 2019: Recently I published a 5,300-word review essay at OEN titled "Walter J. Ong's Thought in Relation to Michel Foucault's Thought" (dated January 30, 2019):

In the present 2,800-word review essay, I plan to discuss the Russian philosopher Sergey S. Horujy's book Practices of the Self and Spiritual Practices: Michel Foucault and the Eastern Christian Discourse, edited with an instructive introduction by Kristina Stoeckl, translated from the Russian by Boris Jakim (Grand Rapids, Michigan [USA]: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2015; orig. Russian ed., 2010).

Horujy is the founder and director of the Institute of Synergic Anthropology in Moscow and honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair for Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions in St. Petersburg.

As the subtitle of Horujy's book indicates, he discusses Foucault's late thought (1980-1984) about practices of the self in relation to the spiritual practices in Eastern Orthodox discourse. In Foucault's late thought, he discusses patristic and medieval Christian thought, including the thought of Christians who influenced and still influence -- Eastern Orthodox discourse.

What Horujy refers to as Foucault's late thought (1980-1984) emerged clearly in volumes two and three of The History of Sexuality that came out in French in 1984: The Use of Pleasure, translated from the French by Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985) and The Care of the Self, translated from the French by Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986). However, even though Foucault published those two books as volumes two and three of The History of Sexuality, they did not carry out the plan for follow-up volumes that he had announced in The History of Sexuality: Volume I: An Introduction, translated from the French by Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978; orig. French ed., 1976). Clearly Foucault's thought had taken a turn in a somewhat different direction.

Then as more and more posthumously published books by Foucault came out, including his lectures at the College de France in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984, the turn his thought had taken in the late period of his life emerged more clearly, especially his discussions of patristic and medieval Christian thought about spiritual practices such as confession and spiritual direction.


Now, in 2018, volume four of The History of Sexuality was published in French as The Confessions of the Flesh. When an English translation comes out, it could spur new interest in Foucault's late thought in the United States (where his earlier body of work has been influential in certain elite universities such as UC-Berkeley).

In the United States, in recent decades, we have been inundated in discussions about the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about sex some of which have deep historical roots.

Will the proverbial **** hit the fan when the English translation of Foucault's posthumously published book The Confessions of the Flesh is published?

It could. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, practicing Catholics who want to prepare themselves to defend the church's teaching about sex might want to study Horujy's book. But practicing Catholics who want to prepare themselves to advance new critiques of the church's teachings about sex might want to use Foucault's work as a toolbox, figuratively speaking, for finding new ways to critique the church's teachings about sex.

In any event, Horujy situates Foucault's late thought (1980-1984) in the field of philosophical anthropology (i.e., a philosophical account of the human person), the field in philosophy in which Horujy has developed what he styles synergic anthropology. He uses his own well-developed sense of synergic anthropology as a heuristic for discussing Foucault's late thought.

Horujy (pages 2-3) operationally defines Foucault's late thought as including the following materials:

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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