We’ve considered in class what Foucault could have meant by “one’s relationship to itself.” Several interpretations were given, those were of a Public in relation to a Private Self – or a Conscious in relation to an Unconscious Self. In these paragraphs, I forward my interpretation of Foucault: an Intuitive Self in relation to an Ideal Self.
The Intuitive Self will sound familiar, because you’ve come across it along the lines of Nietzsche’s writing. And Foucault alludes to its nature as he discusses the Greek and Roman’s understanding of the self. Hold on to your ideas, as I will define this intuitive man after having elaborated on the Ideal self.
Beginning with Lacan, and the Mirror Stage. At the age of 15 to 18 months old, the child looks at himself in the mirror, and will for the first time recognize itself. At this instant, the child forms the basis for the concept of an I. The “I” is born. This “I” isn’t the individual, but how he sees himself, and how he perceives himself as viewed by others. The polarity thus arises; who I am in relation to who I see myself as.
As Foucault stresses in Vol. 1 of History of Sexuality: the many truths that are promulgated through discourses are but a manipulative device fabricated by the Authority, and serve to orient the conscience of the people in the light of favoring a political and economic agenda. The concept of Homosexuality, for instance, is one among many fully socially constructed truths which certain individuals must unfavorably associate their identities with.
The trajectory of Foucault’s Volumes on the History of Sexuality map the conceptualization of a polarity between an identity that is imposed upon him by the many discourses and apparatuses, and himself, that which I have labeled the intuitive self. This intuitive nature is alluded to by Foucault’s reference to the Greek and Romans in the later volumes. He stresses a will to shape oneself through acsesis. And elaborates his ethics in relation to morality, and how one’s way of governing itself comes prior to the moral code inflicted upon him.
The points is this: The ideal version of the self is a concept that one has of him or herself that is deceivingly contrived by the power mechanisms. Consequently, without a choice, one bases its identity on this ideal, and in doing so entertains the truths forwarded by the Authority, and contributes to the apparatuses that serve to forward them.
The Ideal self is thus a socially constructed agent that has grown to oppose itself to the Intuitive self – this struggle has been termed by Freud as Neurosis. Indeed, as forwarded by Nietzsche, we have an innate nature which has been denied for centuries – an intuitive self that has been repressed in the case of Foucault, by the authoritative agent. The mechanisms of power have contrived a knowledge of sexuality, of morality that has been promulgated as Truth, and which through time and repetition, has become self-evident. What both philosophers forward is not to confuse this self-evidence with intuition. More specifically, the two stress a return to our intuitive self, while criticizing this imposed ideal version.