Friday, October 27, 2017

Book Review: Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth

Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, by Michel Foucault. This is a collection of all of Foucault's published texts (prefaces, introductions, presentations, interviews, articles, interventions, lectures, and so on) that are not included in his books.  
The first chapter of part one of this two part book examines the the link between knowledge, pleasure, and truth in the satisfaction it carries. As well as the other extreme, the happiness of theoretical contemplation. Various philosophers have reached altogether different conclusions about this, the book says, like Nietzche's idea that knowledge results from the interplay of instincts, impulses, desires, fear, and other emotions. Subsequent chapters examine the penal system and the establishment of punishments by a society, psychiatric power, mental instabilities and the society's role, as well as, the need for reforms.
The second part is about ethics. How men think that the idea of their submitting to another man, especially of being under another man in the act of love, would destroy their image in the eyes of women. Which is the reason for heterosexual encounters to be considered superior to homosexual, the book posits. Intellectuals are more tolerant toward, or receptive to,  different modes of sexual behavior than other people, as they can appreciate the 'drives' better. Sexuality is  a part of our behavior, the book says, and it's a part of our world freedom.
The book conceives sexuality as  a general type of behavior whose particular elements might vary according to demographic, economic, social, or ideological conditions. It tries to analyze sexuality as a historically singular form of experience, and treat sexuality as just another normal experience, while trying to explain, how, in Western societies, a complex experience is constituted from it. What is then analyzed is the many facets of philosophical thoughts, like humanism and its forms like Marxism, discourses of Kant, etc.
While reading this book, what attracted me most was the question, the author poses. "If one wants to behave rationally and regulate one's action according to true principles, what part of one's self should one renounce? In fact this question hides the seeds of certain shortfall we all feel, which is what led to all of my books, primarily 'The Unsure Male'