Essay about Lecture notes - Foucault's ethics intro

Submitted By spencerrevoy
Words: 2166
Pages: 9

Introduction – Notes
In Vol. I Foucault maps out what he sees as the emergence of the modern sexual discourse from the Victorian era on.
Vol. II we will see moves further back to examine what Foucault conceives as an alternative to the Judeo-Christian morality of sex discussed in the Introduction
This alternative takes the form of an ethics of pleasure that Foucault derives from Greek society
Foucault unearths from Greek antiquity a structure for the ethical use of pleasure, hence the title

The Use of Pleasure – Notes
Foucault argues that Greek ethics concerned “the relationship with the self and the self that enabled a person to keep from being carried away by the appetites and pleasures, to maintain a mastery and superiority over them, to keep his senses in a state of tranquility, to remain free from interior bondage to the passions, and to achieve a mode of being that could be defined by the full enjoyment of oneself, or the perfect supremacy of oneself over oneself.”
To maintain self-control and a self-mastery of one’s pleasure and appetites
Four components to the achievement of this:
The determination of what the ‘ethical substance’ is: In the Greek episteme [conception instead?], aphrodesia (bodily pleasure) is the ethical substance. This is the aspect of a subject’s conduct which for the Greeks in Foucault’s argument is the area of behavior that is subject to moral/ethical judgement, hence it is the ‘ethical substance’
The mode of subjection which for the Greeks is the proper use of pleasure, or chrēsis (proper use).
The moral work involved here is the ongoing struggle of the subject to remain ‘continent’ [find better word] and in control of the uses of pleasure
The moral goal is the ‘freedom generated by self-mastery or sōphrosynē

Aphrodesia “the acts, gestures, and contacts that produce a certain form of pleasure.”
Aphrodesia ARE both positive and negative, to Foucault. Positive dimension: immensely pleasurable, natural, everyone does it
‘Everyone does it’ isn’t wholly positive. It needs to be limited (via Foucault’s reading) for the Greeks because “the Greeks deemed aphrodisia as possessing an ‘inferior character’ for they ‘were common to animals and men,’ ‘mixed with privation and suffering,’ and ‘depended on the body and its necessities.’” So this is an intrinsic problem with pleasure’s character but there are unintrinsic problems too LIKE:
Excessiveness and passivity, two poles that were, in Foucault’s reading, the two modes of immorality for the Greeks, and as they are associated with bodily pleasure, Foucault thus renders aphrodesia as the ethical substance of the Greeks.
Excessiveness: pretty basic, one begins to attain pleasures beyond his ‘natural needs’
Passivity has a double articulation: one is not negative, i.e. you can passively achieve pleasure, Foucault terms this the passive or [ugh] ‘feminine’ role of sexual aphrodesia, which is fine. Passivity in the negative sense means that one can become less concerned about other needs and pleasures, good example: becoming an alcoholic and barely eating because you’re chiefly concerned about the pleasures of drinking
Thus: Aprodesia aren’t negative things, but they lead morally weak people to become enslaved to their appetites and uses of pleasure through excessiveness and passivity and thus the use of pleasure should be an ethical concern, with pleasure or aphrodesia being the ‘ethical substance’.
Subjection, or the proper use of pleasure
“[f]ood, wines, and relations with women and boys constituted analogous ethical material; they brought forces into play that were natural, but that always tended to be excessive.”
Point to be made here is that all pleasures are topologically consistent for Greek ethics—sex is not valorized
Chrēsis: the term for the proper use of pleasure. In Foucault’s reading, it consists of three criteria:
Need: the basis of the use of pleasure should be the fulfillment of a need and individually determined in