I am working on a book review of Foucault and Freedom by Johanna Oksala for a journal, and in the third part she argues that “by linking his thought to the Enlightenment, Foucault makes the normative move of adopting the ideals associated with it–critical reason and personal autonomy–as the implicit ground on which his critiques of domination, abusive forms of power and reason rest. The Enlightenment provides him with the historical–not transcendental– values on which to base his critiques” (187).
This is a complicated and controversial point, but it is similar to an argument I made in a recent article in the journal Philosophy and Social Criticism, that in emphasizing the connection between his own work and that of Kant, Foucault may have in part been trying to encourage an audience of fellow theorists to consider how their theories can address and impact concerns in their own historical present (as Kant did in some of his texts). Oksala argues that for both Foucault and Kant, philosophy can have an important social and politcal role as critical thought aimed at promoting human freedom and autonomy. I think much more could be said than either I or Oksala have said about how Kant’s critiques and his other texts use philosophy as critical thought, as a means of promoting freedom. The point is not only to find the conditions of possibility of knowledge and morality (I leave aside the 3rd critique for the moment, as I am not much familiar with it), but in so doing to promote freedom by releasing us from heteronymy and dogmatism. What further values could we promote or hinder in philosophical pursuit of truth or criticisms thereof? Is it that the question of truth is enough in itself to drive philosophical thinking, or should we consider what else we can do with it? Can doing and teaching philosophy aim towards human freedom? If so, what kind, how, and why is this important? How can we avoid upholding practices and discourses that hinder it? (A Foucauldian question.) What role does the pursuit of truth itself play in hindering freedom? (Another Foucauldian question.)