Towards a metaphysics of the soul and a participatory aesthetics of life: mobilising Foucault, affect and animism for caring practices of existence

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10.3898/NEWF:95.01.2018

In his Lectures on Biopolitics (1978-79) Foucault highlighted the contemporary intensification of neoliberal arts of government, by which economic incentive structures are designed to control human behaviour and ‘life itself ’ through market transactions framed as enhancing efficiency in the distribution of goods and bads. The human subject of this ‘truth game of the market’ seems critically disempowered: conceived as a machine-like agent, responding predictably to expert manipulations constructing a governmentality that simultaneously disavows the amplifications of inequity and ecological damage with which it is associated. In the last works of his life, especially The Hermeneutics of the Subject (1981-82) and The Courage of Truth (1983-84), Foucault turned again towards the possibility of seeking other rules of subjectification so as to play the games of power ‘with as little domination as possible’. His encouragement was to remember the philosophical strategy associated with Socrates, namely to attend to oneself through activating the soul’s contemplation of the actions of the self: thereby composing an ethical subject whose actions, through practices of freedom and truth-telling, are not enslaved by appetites; and whose ethos of care becomes extended through the conduct of relationships with others, including life (bios) itself. This paper extends Foucault’s expositions on ‘the care of the self ’ and ‘the courage of truth’ to affirm animist and affective activations of the soul silenced through the consolidated colonial universality of so-called western knowledge. In doing so, the paper advocates a refraction of the games of truth infusing practices of domination in socio-ecological relations and ‘biodiversity conservation’, as a gesture towards amplifying an ethics of consideration for both human and beyond-human others.