Upper Intermediate Philosophy, Term 3: Focault

Tutor: Austin Hill


Thursdays, 1300-1500, 11 meetings

Full fee £80 Conc. £35

  1. Course Outline:

In one of the ironies of intellectual history, ‘Foucault’ has become an institution. Many courses in the humanities, social sciences and the arts (and beyond) will often touch on his work. However, these considerations are often fleeting, episodic and lacking an appreciation of the context of his writings or the questions as to the continuities and discontinuities or flat inconsistencies of his work as a whole. This course will provide an opportunity to explore this important and influential figure in depth, ranging from his early to his late work and assessing their significance for a range of topics in the philosophy of knowledge, history, politics and ethics.

  1. Who is this course for?

This course is at Upper Intermediate level and so would not be suitable for people who are new to studying philosophy. It would be an ideal continuation course for students who have previously studied on our Intermediate level courses and who now want a course that will look at the work of a particular philosopher in some depth. It may also be suitable for people who have had some previous grounding in Philosophy and who now want to study in more depth.

Although you should have some previous experience of studying philosophy it is not expected that you need to have a great deal of familiarity with Foucault’s work, as this is what the course will aim to provide.

  1. What this course could lead to.

 Other Advanced level Philosophy courses at the Mary Ward Centre or other similar establishments. Other courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences with a strong emphasis on theory and the study of the mind and human behaviour(e.g., Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, History).

  1. What does this course cover

We will aim to provide to an overview of Foucault’s career as a whole, form his earlier more ‘      Sructuralist’ texts throught to the Middle and later periods of the “Genealogical” texts such as Discipline and Punish and the various volumes of the History of Sexuality and some the lectures from the College De France. At each stage we will examine how Foucault’s work should be interpreted and looking to place his contributions in the context of the debates of the time. We will also look to independently assess the coherence of the positions that seem to emerge from his work and assess its significance for contemporary debates in philosophy, social theory and politics.

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Identify and explain a range of key concepts in Foucault’s work (e.g., the notion of an historical episteme or discursive formation, power/knowledge, micropolitics, technologies of the self).
  • Assess evidence of continuities and discontinuities in Foucault’s career (e.g. with respect to the influence of Structuralism or the return to the theme of the self in the later work).
  • Critically assess key themes of Focault’s work and assess its continued relevance to contemporary debates
  1. What will it be like?

The course is an interactive mixture of tutor exposition, class discussion and group/pair work. Videos and clips will be used to supplement some of these class based activities. There are opportunities for further discussion and reading outside of the class via the course’s Moodle website.

We will assess your expectations of the course in the first sessions. Thereafter, you will be able to monitor your progress on the course through participation in class discussion, questions and answers and in-class exercises. At the end of the course, you will be able to measure your progress against the stated outcomes for the course.

  1. What else do you need to buy or do

We will be covering material from throughout Foucault’s career so there is no one single text which you will need to purchase. Handouts for each session will be provided and additional material will be available through the Moodle page for the course. You may find it useful to bring writing materials with you to make notes during sessions but no additional resources are essential.