12. Foucault on Kant, Enlightenment, and Being Critical

  1. Christopher Falzon2,
  2. Timothy O'Leary3 and
  3. Jana Sawicki4
  1. Marc Djaballah

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324905.ch12

A Companion to Foucault

A Companion to Foucault

How to Cite

Djaballah, M. (2013) Foucault on Kant, Enlightenment, and Being Critical, in A Companion to Foucault (eds C. Falzon, T. O'Leary and J. Sawicki), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324905.ch12

Editor Information

  1. 2

    University of Newcastle, Australia

  2. 3

    University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

  3. 4

    Williams College, USA

Author Information

  1. University of Quebec, Montreal, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 12 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444334067

Online ISBN: 9781118324905



  • critical attitude;
  • enlightenment;
  • Foucault;
  • Kant;
  • modernity


This chapter begins with an exposition of Foucault's genealogical account of critique as an untheorized attitude and mode of existence, that of being critical. Foucault finds the sources of philosophical critique in practices of resistance to politicized forms of pastoral power transposed from Hebraic and Christian traditions at the time of the Protestant Reformation. The next section explores Foucault's identification of the first theoretical formulation of this attitude of being critical in Kant's essay “ What is Enlightenment?”. The ensuing section sketches Foucault's reading of Kant's piece, with an eye to the distinction between the transcendental version of critique practiced in the three Critiques, and critique as Enlightenment, the attitude characterized by the will not to be poorly or excessively governed. Finally, Foucault's analysis of modernity is presented as a model of practicing the self, a “limit attitude” emblematic of the exercise of freedom.