Care for Thyself? An Hegelian Critique of the Foucauldian Subject



ontology, subjectivity, Hegel, Foucault, self-care, relationality


In the wake of Foucault’s reproach of all political projects “global and radical”, Foucault resuscitates the Stoic concept of epimeleia heautou (care of the self), suggesting self-transformation—"making one’s life a work of art”—to be a potent antidote to domination. By making one’s life a work of art, which entails disengagement from all things that turn one away from oneself, one can circumvent domination, as well as reduce one’s own inclinations to dominate others. Foucault justifies this by claiming that self-relation is ontologically prior to other-relatedness and thus, ethically prior; however, he neglects to delineate how he derives this assumption, making it little more than an arbitrarily posited axiom. I argue that it is upon this assumption that the legitimacy of Foucault’s final era hinges, and hence its tenability warrants investigation. In this paper, I use Hegel’s immanent ontology systematized in the Science of Logic. I dispute Foucault’s claim regarding self-relation’s primacy by demonstrating how self-relation immanently emerges in the passage through an other and I outline the ramifications of holding fast to an unsustainable categorical assumption.

Author Biography

Evan Supple, Athabasca University

Master's Candidate, Interdisciplinary Studies

Faculty of Social Sciences and the Humanities



Arash Abazari, Hegel’s Ontology of Power: The Structure of Social Domination in Capitalism (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2020).

James W. Bernauer & Michael Mahon, “Michel Foucault’s Ethical Imagination” in The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, Second Edition. Edited by Gary Gutting, (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2005), 149-175.

Arnold I. Davidson, “Ethics as Ascetics: Foucault, the History of Ethics, and Ancient Thought” in The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, Second Edition. Edited by Gary Gutting, (Cambridge: Cambridge, 2005), 123-148.

Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. (New York: Bloomsbury,


Gianfranco Ferrari, “The Care of the Present: on Foucault’s Ontological Machine,” in The Late Foucault. Edited by Marta Faustino and Gianfranco Ferrara (London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2020), 115-131.

Michel Foucault, “Subject and Power” in Critical Inquiry 8, no.4 (1982): 777-795

Michel Foucault. “Truth and Power,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 32-50.

Michel Foucault. “What is Enlightenment?” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 32-50.

Michel Foucault, The Use of Pleasure: History of Sexuality Volume II. Translated by Robert Hurley, (New York: Vintage Press, 1990).

Michel Foucault, “About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self: Two Lectures at Dartmouth,” in Political Theory 2, no. 2 (1993): 198-227.

Michel Foucault. “The Ethics of the Concern of the Self as a Practice of Freedom. Interview by H. Becker, R. Fornet-Betancourt, and A. Gomez-Müller,” in Subjectivity and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: The New Press, 1997a), 281-301.

Michel Foucault, “An Interview by Stephen Riggins,” in Ethics, Subjectivity, and Truth, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: The New Press, 1997b), 121-134.

Michel Foucault, Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the College De France, 1981-1982. Translated by Graham Burchell, ed. Frederic Gros. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College De France 1977-78. Translated by Graham Burchell, ed. Michel Senellart, (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

Frederic Gros, “Course Context,” in Hermeneutics of the Subject, by Michel Foucault, translated by Graham Burchell, ed. Frederic Gros (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as A Way of Life. Translated by Michael Chase. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995).

Béatrice Han, L’ontologie manquée de Michel Foucault (Grenoble: Millon, 1998).

Byung-Chul Han, Topology of Violence. Translated by Amanda Demarco. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2018).

G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right. Translated by S.W. Dyde (London: G Bell, 1896). Retrieved from

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel's Logic: Being Part One of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences. Translated by William Wallace, (Oxford: Oxford University, 1975a).

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art. Translated by Thomas M. Knox (Oxford: Oxford University, 1975b).

G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic. Translated by A.V. Miller. ed. H. D. Lewis, (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Paperback Library, 1989).

Stephen Houlgate, The Opening of Hegel’s Logic: From Being to Infinity, (West Lafayette: Purdue, 2006).

Stephen Houlgate, “Essence, Reflexion, and Immediacy in Hegel’s Science of Logic,” in A Companion to Hegel. eds. Stephen Houlgate and Michael Baur, (Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2011).

Catherine Malabou, The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality, and Dialectic. Translated by Lisabeth During, (New York: Routledge, 2005).

Thomas McCarthy, Ideals and Illusions: On Reconstruction and Deconstruction in Contemporary Critical Thoery (Cambridge: MIT, 1991).

Lois McNay, Foucault and Feminism: Power, Gender, and the Self (Cambridge: Polity, 1992).

Plato, Apology. Translated by Harold N. Fowler, (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1966). Accessed at, on 28/08/2022).

Andrew Thacker, “Foucault’s Aesthetics of Existence,” in Radical Philosophy 63 (1993), 13- 21.

Richard Dien Winfield, Overcoming Foundations, (New York: Columbia, 1989).

Slavoj Žižek, Less Than Nothing, (Brooklyn/London: Verso, 2012).




How to Cite

Supple, E. (2023). Care for Thyself? An Hegelian Critique of the Foucauldian Subject. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 19(2), 351–380. Retrieved from