Why is 'speaking the truth' fearless? 'Danger' and 'truth' in Foucault's discussion of parrhesia

Parrhesia 1 (4) (2008)
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This article is a critical examination of the approach to truth in Foucault’s late writing on the topic of ‘parrhesia’. I argue that his 1983 Berkeley seminar on ‘Discourse and Truth’ approaches the topic of truth as a positive value and that this approach presents, at least prima facie, a problem of continuity with his earlier critique of the presumption of an exclusionary relation between truth and power in works such as Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Does the ethical notion of ‘parrhesia’ imply a different relation between truth and power than the one developed in the earlier works? And if so, what are we to make of the difference? In particular, 1) what does it mean to say that speaking the truth is dangerous? And 2) Are the two positions on truth compatible? What does it take to reconcile the two perspectives?

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Alison F. Ross
Monash University


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