The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Body Problematic

The Body Problematic

Political Imagination in Kant and Foucault Laura Hengehold
  • Copyright: 2007
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 336 pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03211-5
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03212-2
“This thought-provoking work on Foucault reads him against a Kantian background—replacing transcendental critique with genealogical critique. Locating Kant’s critical standpoint in a resistance to being dominated by such problematic limits as a thing in itself and an infinite subject, Hengehold goes on to explore how Foucault treats madness, sexuality, and delinquency as individual embodied modes of resistance to the limit concepts of the body politic. This book will be of interest to readers in contemporary philosophy, aesthetics, feminism, critical theory, and the social sciences.”
“By examining Foucault’s writings on Kant and the concept of aesthetic judgment in the work of both philosophers, Hengehold reveals compelling connections between these pivotal thinkers. Reading Foucault through Kant, she offers a serious challenge to critics who would dismiss Foucault’s last works as a mere reduction of ethics to aesthetics. Hengehold’s elegant prose and meticulous scholarship add interest and depth to a very original analysis. Every Foucault scholar needs to read this book.”
“In The Body Problematic, Laura Hengehold develops an ingenious and comprehensive account of the relation between body and State in Kant and Foucault. . . . By laying out the issue, the author has set the bar very high, and thereby done those working in the field a huge favor. We now have a new benchmark that both inspires us and vindicates our work.”

Late in life, Foucault identified with “the critical tradition of Kant,” encouraging us to read both thinkers in new ways. Kant’s “Copernican” strategy of grounding knowledge in the limits of human reason proved to stabilize political, social-scientific, and medical expertise as well as philosophical discourse. These inevitable limits were made concrete in historical structures such as the asylum, the prison, and the sexual or racial human body. Such institutions built upon and shaped the aesthetic judgment of those considered “normal.”

Following Kant through all of Foucault’s major works, this book shows how bodies functioned as “problematic objects” in which the limits of post-Enlightenment European power and discourse were imaginatively figured and unified. It suggests ways that readers in a neoliberal political order can detach from the imaginative schemes vested in their bodies and experiment normatively with their own security needs.

Laura Hengehold is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Case Western Reserve University.



Introduction: Imagination and Problematization

Part 1: The Political Topology of Kantian Reason

Drawing the Boundaries of Pure Reason

Transcendental and Other Topographies

The Quest for Unity

Discursivity and Materiality

The Virtues of Communicability

The Kantian Body—Missing in Action

Part 2: Man and His Doubles: Two Ways to Problematize

Heterotopia and the Phenomenological World

In the Field of the Problematic Object

The Man-Form: Empirical and Transcendental

Materiality and Resemblance: Statements

Materiality and Resemblance: Bodies

An-aesthetic philosophy?

Part 3: Locked in the Market

From Raison d’État to Phobie d’État

Migration of Sovereignty

The Normal and the Normative

Crisis in Liberalism

Negative Anthropology

Afterword: Not Similar to Something, Just Similar



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