Course details


Critical Philosophies of Subjectivity 1: Michel Foucault

WS 2021 Prof. Dr. Rainer Mühlhoff Hybrid
B.Sc modules:
CS-BWP-PHIL - Philosophy for Cognitive Science
KOGW-WPM-PHIL - Philosophy of Mind and Cognition
M.Sc modules:
CS-MWP-PHIL - Philosophy for Cognitive Science
Mon: 14-16

This BA and MA level seminar provides an introduction to the philosophy of power and subjectivity of the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926–1984). Foucault is one of the most prominent theorists in what could be called the French school of critical philosophy in the 20st century, and a central figure in the sub-field called post-structuralism. Foucault's work addresses the relationship of power and knowledge, and how both operate as social control through social practices and institutions (e.g. in psychiatry, in the hospital, in the criminal justice system, in education, …). In detailed historical analyses he shows how subjectivity (understood as the way of making sense of oneself and others), and in fact, the subject itself, is a product of situated power-knowledge complexes. In the seminar, we will read parts of Foucault's works such as *Discipline and Punish* and *History of Sexuality* to map out his understanding of power, subjectivity and the related notions of subjectivation, critique, body and discourse. Additional readings of Louis Althusser will help us to contextualise Foucault further in the Marxist tradition. Reading Judith Butler, we will shed some light on how Foucault became a central reference in the critical philosophy of gender, (queer) sexuality and the body. In each session we will elaborate on how Foucault is relevant to an the ethics and critical philosophy of the Digital Age, trying to translate his concepts in today's networked social world. The seminar is the first one in a series of seminars that will introduce major critical philosophies of subjectivity of the past 100 years. The goal of this series is to provide a solid background for ethics and critical theory of the AI and digital media. Prerequisites: none. This is an introductory seminar for all students with an interest in critical philosophy, continental philosophy, and ethics. The course might switch to "online" teaching depending on the development of the pandemic.