The selfhood and the ascetic ideal of the modern subject: the art of living from Friedrich Nietzsche to Michel Foucault

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Oana Șerban


Conceived as an analysis of the reception of Nietzsche`s ethics, assumed as a project for an aesthetic of existence, at the crossroads of modernism and postmodernism, this article explores the way in which the whole art of living could be interpreted following two significant moments: the “death of God”, proposed by Nietzsche, and the “death of the Author”, mentioned by Michel Foucault. More precisely, I investigate the way in which the two moments will test common assumptions exploited in different philosophical directions. In this regard, I suggest understanding the manner in which the death of God develops philosophy as an art of transfiguration, endowed with a metaphysical nostalgia meant to influence Foucault`s perspectivism and genealogy.This paper is an attempt to criticize the modern subject – considered through the theme of the selfhood – and the ascetic ideal as elements submitted to the art of living that Foucault inherited from Nietzsche. Thus, I advocate for the development of Nietzsche`s ascetic ideal assumed as part of the aesthetics of the existence in which self-denial suggests not only a dynamic conception of discipline, achieved through the equivalence between giving life a meaning and surviving to the weakness, but also a narrative method, dramatized, of opening the subject as an exponent of consciousness. I assume the fact that such a statement proposes accepting a subject consisted in the heritage of “morality of mores” practices, from Nietzsche`s construction, resignificated by Foucault in his “practices of the self”. This kind of approach seems to present the impasse of the aesthetics of existence caused by the perennial returning at a model of ascetic ideal, adjusted, upgraded, in such a form that modernity is announced, in the light of this movement, as a dimension consacrated to the constituing of the self as a work of art tributary to ethical reforms of the art of living.

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ȘERBAN, Oana. The selfhood and the ascetic ideal of the modern subject: the art of living from Friedrich Nietzsche to Michel Foucault. Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series, [S.l.], v. 62, n. 1, july 2015. ISSN 0068-3175. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 10 apr. 2021.