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The Form that Freedom Takes: Foucault, Ethics, and Governmentality

When Michel Foucault asserted that “ethics is the considered form that freedom takes when it is informed by reflection,” he was not so much stating a fact as offering a definition. What does that definition mean when considered alongside Foucault’s description of liberalism as both a consumer and producer of freedom? What are the possibilities for ethics so conceived in the midst of global inequality and an increasingly unstable biosphere?
When Feb 12, 2016
from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Where Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, University Park, PA 16802
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When Michel Foucault asserted that “ethics is the considered form that freedom takes when it is informed by reflection,” he was not so much stating a fact as offering a definition. For Foucault, ethics does not necessarily have anything to do with concepts such as “right” or “good” but is, simply, a course of self-aware, self-assessed, contingent conduct. This definition de-individualizes ethics in that nothing in it prohibits the term “ethics” from being applied to the course of conduct of a community, a people, or a nation. It also de-personalizes and, indeed, de-humanizes ethics, allowing one to speak of the ethics apparent in the course of conduct of non-human entities of many sorts. This presentation will consider Foucault’s definition of ethics alongside his descriptions of liberalism in The Birth of Biopolitics as both a consumer and a producer of freedom in order to raise the question of ethics for neoliberalized subjects in the midst of global inequality and an increasingly unstable biosphere.

This event is approved for SARI@PSU participation credit.

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*Registration not required, but highly recommended.

Ladelle McWhorter

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Ladelle McWhorter is the author of Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization (Indiana, 1999), Racism andSexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy (Indiana, 2009), and more than three dozen articles on Foucault, Bataille, Irigaray, and race theory. With Gail Stenstad, she edited a revised and greatly expanded second edition of her 1992 anthology Heidegger and the Earth: Essays in Environmental Philosophy, which was issued by Toronto University Press in 2009. She holds the Stephanie Bennett Smith Chair in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and is also Professor of Environmental Studies and holds an appointment in the Philosophy Department at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia. She is currently working on a book tentatively entitled The End of Personhood on a Postmodern Planet.