Therapeutic Arguments, Spiritual Exercises, or the Care of the Self. Martha Nussbaum, Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault on Ancient Philosophy

Ethical Perspectives 22 (4):601-634 (2015)
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The practical aspect of ancient philosophy has been recently made a focus of renewed metaphilosophical investigation. After a brief presentation of three accounts of this kind developed by Martha Nussbaum, Pierre Hadot, and Michel Foucault, the model of the therapeutic argument developed by Nussbaum is called into question from the perspectives offered by her French colleagues, who emphasize spiritual exercise (Hadot) or the care of the self (Foucault). The ways in which the account of Nussbaum can be defended are then discussed, including both a ‘negative’ defense, i.e. the indication of the weaknesses of Hadot and Foucault’s proposals, and a ‘positive’ one focused on the points in which Nussbaum can convincingly address doubts about her metaphilosophical account. In response to these analyses, some further remarks made by Hadot and Foucault are discussed in order to demonstrate that their accounts are not as distant from Nussbaum after all. Finally, a recent metaphilosophical study by John Sellars together with a therapeutic (medical) model developed by the author of the present article are suggested as providing a framework for potential reconciliation between all three accounts discussed and a resource for further metaphilosophical studies.
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