NYC Master Class on Michel Foucault and Humanism

Oct 21, 2016
Fordham President's Dining Room
113 West 60th Street
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Rémi Brague Sorbonne, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

A half-day seminar discussion of the chapter "Contesting Humanism: Michel Foucault" from the new book by philosopher Rémi Brague. This master class is open to graduate students and faculty. Undergraduates or others interested in participating should contact us. PDFs of the book will be made available online for all participants.


The Legitimacy of the Human (St. Augustine's Press, 2016) presents itself as a satellite work to a more voluminous effort by Rémi Brague, The Kingdom of Man. The larger book argues the thesis of the increasingly visible failure of the modern project, founded upon a view of man as thoroughly emancipated and autonomous, his own sovereign and the world’s. This is most visible in our technological powers and predicaments, with their ever-growing capacity to destroy or fundamentally transform our humanity, but understandings of freedom and equality unable to justify themselves before the bar of reason, but willfully asserting themselves, complement the picture. If modernity’s precious gains are to be preserved, and with them their beneficiaries, modern human beings, then the founding thoughts of the modern world need to be revisited and revised, often in terms of a creative reengagement with premodern ones. A new, truly humanistic, culture needs to be sought.

The Legitimacy of the Human drives home that basic argument, surveying contemporary challenges to the very existence of humanity, then interrogating modern thought and philosophy for reasons it might have for the continuation of the human adventure. Brague finds the self-proclaimed advocates of the modern strikingly silent or even negative about the proposition. To be sure, in many instances modern philosophy has helped humanity organize itself better in terms of justice, peaceful coexistence, and prosperity. But on the basic question whether it is good that humans exist, it is strangely tongue-tied. Other authorities must be consulted, other sources drawn from, to credibly answer that fundamental existential question. The last two chapters of the book hearken to the answer of the biblical God, as expressed in Genesis 1 and recapitulated by the Word Incarnate of the Gospels.

Rémi Brague is Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Religious Philosophy at the Sorbonne and Romano Guardini Chair of Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. In 2012, he was awarded the Ratzinger Prize for Theology. He is author of numerous books on classical and medieval culture, religion, literature, and law, including Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization and Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea.