Foucault: “We might wonder”

Reading vol. 4 of Foucault’s History of Sexuality for the Times Literary Supplement, I still can’t quite believe he wrote these lines in the first pages of vol. 1: “Today it is sex that serves as a support for the ancient form – so familiar and important in the West – of preaching. A great sexual sermon – which has had its subtle theologians and its popular voices – has swept through our societies over the last decades; it has chastised the old order, denounced hypocrisy, and praised the rights of the immediate and the real; it has made people dream of a New City. The Franciscans are called to mind. And we might wonder how it is possible that the lyricism and religiosity that long accompanied the revolutionary project have, in Western industrial societies, been largely carried over to sex.”

We might wonder, indeed. And the late-period Foucault was absolutely evoking, in that choice of words (“We might wonder”), a very old saying about philosophy beginning with wonder.

– M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction: Volume I, trans. R. Hurley (New York, 1990), pp. 7-8

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