Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Michel Foucault as Contemporary Conscience

William E. Duvall.

Michel Foucault's texts confront the reader with a brilliant, if bewildering, analysis of the relationship of language, knowledges, and power and of the ways in which that relationship produces, constructs and constitutes the truths of the human subject or self. His texts explore knowledges as disciplinary and offer the insightful conception of the human sciences as both fields of study and systems of control. If the subject is not prior to discourse and discourse is the generative context in which the self emerges, knowledges at once homogenize and make possible differentiation intelligible according to a norm. The passing on of knowledge takes on moral implications, for the true way of seeing becomes the good. If educational institutions are embodiments of techniques of discourse/ knowledge/power, then we humanists ply our profession where the life of thought, the life of the mind, is institutionalized and normalized. Every I (self) in the system becomes an eye that sees what it is asked to see. Rather ironically, Foucault's analyses can stand as a sort of conscience and reminder, calling us as humanists to a responsibility for what we say.


William E. Duvall  (United States)
E. J. Whipple Professor of History
Department of History College of Liberal Arts
Willamette University

William Duvall received his PhD in 1973 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been Professor of History at Willamette University since 1984, and presently holds the E.J. Whipple Chair in History. During the past 15 years, his writing has centered on Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche and Foucault.

  • Discourse/knowledge/power
  • Discipline
  • Responsibility
Person as Subject
  • Foucault, Michel

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)