Epicurus, Poststructuralism, and Nāgārjuna as Sources of Eudemonia

By Ryan Smith

1 Reason: An enemy and enslaver or a friend and helper?

The ”destabilization” of facts, the resistance to categories of knowledge, the cult of the immediate, the ”non-hierarchical communities” (Foucault) all point towards a common poststructuralist project, namely the dismantling of classical humanism and the philosophical notion of the individual subject: As a phase in the “emancipation” from bourgeois norms, the individual must cast off all conceptions of identity, as these are just the machinations of an external bourgeois discourse that have been forced upon the individual. As Deleuze and Guattari would posit in Mille Plateaux (1980): “[We should aim to] reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves.”[1]

This project of de-subjectification is but philosophical flotsam from Nietzsche’s “Dionysian impulse” as originally depicted in Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872) as well as from the subject-less Dasein of Martin Heidegger which simply just is.[2] This subjectlessness stands in the starkest possible contrast to the philosophical project of Socrates which constantly underlined the importance of continuously greater sophrosyne (wise self-insight) which is attained through critical introspection and gnōthi seauton (knowledge of the self).[3]

This approach to philosophical practice, however, would not reach its zenith with Socrates, but rather with Epicurus’ development of the original Socratic position. As we shall see, the Epicurean philosophy possesses an epistemology and an elaborate psychology of the subject which directly opposes the poststructuralist precept that the existence of the individual is derogated when tied up with rational categories of knowledge.[4] To the extent that the poststructuralists depict themselves as philosophers it seems quite odd that there does not exist a single poststructuralist refutation of Epicurus, for even in spite of the poststructuralist “de-centralization” of facts, the philosophy of Epicurus is at heart a unison of exactly the two things that poststructuralists believe to be irreconcilable: Rational knowledge and sensory happiness.[5]

According to Epicurus, man experiences happiness by understanding the material world rationally. Earthquakes are not the wrath of the gods, planets are not omens, and death is not eternal pain. Rationality is not the nemesis of human nature, but a friend and a helper.

2 Liberating the soul: Transgression versus Ataraxia

As an applied philosophy, and a way of life, Epicureanism, like poststructuralism, aims to liberate the individual by uncovering the hidden forces that coerce it. For Foucault, these are the so-called “techniques of knowledge and subjectification”[6], while for Lyotard ”The notorious universality of knowledge […] [is] a mark of the destruction of personal identities.”[7] Common to each of these approaches is the fact that they endeavour to challenge the primacy of the singular, cognizant individual (often called ‘the subject’). For Lyotard, dispassionate analysis is the arch nemesis of the subjective, sublime feeling that cannot be analysed and cannot be shared with others in the least.[8] While for Foucault there was the Bataille-inspired ‘Limit-experience’:[9] Experiences so intense that they scramble all individual cognisance and reveal analytical modes of thought as unreal derivatives of reality, rather than true reality. The sensation generated by the limit-experience, then, is what Foucault referred to as transgression.[10]

Common to each of these approaches, however, is that they are epistemologically untenable: For without the notion of a subject, how can Foucault and Lyotard know that the subject is curtailed by knowledge-categories and analytical modes of thought? Likewise, how can poststructuralists know that individual identity exists when there is no subject on which to pin it?

So according to poststructuralism impersonal knowledge restricts and fetters the individual and compels it; governs it to be inauthentic. (As Lyotard said, only the self that is free of contact with knowledge-categories is in fact a self.)[11] Faced with exactly the same problem, Epicureanism argues instead for a synthesis that makes use of knowledge-categories as a way to liberate the subject:

”Just as there is no use in medical expertise if it does not give therapy for bodily diseases, so too there is no use in philosophy if it does not expel the suffering of the soul.”[12]

According to Epicureanism, expelling the suffering of the soul will lead to ataraxia, that is, a state of mental ease which – ironically enough – corresponds extremely well to the sensation described in Foucault’s account of transgression. So while Epicureanism and poststructuralism could not be further from each other with regards to means, they are essentially the same with regards to ends: The existential condition craved by each of these philosophies is ultimately very similar.

Where they differ, however, is that ataraxia is achieved through rational and calm contemplation of the human conditions and the often harsh terms of life on Earth, whereas transgression is instead facilitated though extreme and destructive experiences: Crime, drugs, sexual and political violence. As Foucault said, everything short of the extreme is nothing:

”Those middle-range pleasures that make up everyday life … are nothing. … A Pleasure must be something incredibly intense. … Some drugs are really important … because they are the mediation to those incredibly intense joys.”[13]

Or as the very same thought was sloganistically expressed in Surveiller et punir (1975):

”The soul is the prison of the body.”[14]

Meaning essentially the soul as the reflecting Cartesian cogito and the body as immediate, unreflective modes of existence: Thus according to poststructuralism, the more the cogito reflects on impersonal, identity-compelling knowledge-categories, the more the immediate and subjective is coerced into objective inauthenticity.[15]

An argument along the same lines can also be found in Foucault’s earlier work,

Folie et déraison (1961): Having subjected madness to science (and dubbed it déraison), the West no longer fears folkloric madness (called folie) as a force with the potential to erupt into a pandemonium that can possess us all.[16] According to Foucault, science has dispelled the tenseful duality between sane order and mad chaos that had persisted from ancient times.[17] And consequently, life in the scientific episteme, that is, in the West, has become a bland and sterile unity.[18]

Such themes evoke parallels to Nietzsche’s early Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872) as well as the later Götzen-Dämmerung (1889). In Nietzsche’s rendition of events, the Apollonian and the Dionysian impulses are poised in equilibrium; they constantly curb and check each other, until sometime in the fifth century BCE the Apollonian gained the upper hand.[19] In Nietzsche’s narrative, the Apollonian without the Dionysian heralds the decline and decadence of Greek culture[20] and culminates in the perverse, ”wrong” Socrates who curtails Der Wille zur Macht (the Will to Power).[21] And what, according to Nietzsche, was the cardinal sin of Socrates’ philosophical endeavour? It was precisely that he sought to equip the Greeks with a self-consciousness that made use of objective knowledge-categories.[22]

Confronted with these same problems, the Epicurean posits instead that the greatest threat to ataraxia is the irrational fear that results from holding irrational beliefs.[23] (For example, believing that the reason that your house burned down is that Zeus is angry with you; this irrational belief leads to a constant irrational fear.) According to Epicurus, such irrational beliefs are best eradicated by the subject becoming acquainted with logic and material science and especially physics. Through an insight into science and epistemology the subject will eventually come to know that the celestial bodies above are not gods waiting to rain their wrath down upon you, but rather clouds of atoms; worlds such as this one.[24] To the poststructuralists discussed above such an approach to epistemology would lead to a convoluted Cartesian life, but to Epicurus it leads, fundamentally, to a life in accordance with nature.[25]

”What produces the pleasant life if not continuous drinking and parties of pederasty or womanizing or the enjoyment of fish and other dishes of an expensive table, but sober reasoning which … banishes the opinions that beset souls with the greatest confusion.”[26]            (boldface added)

Rational knowledge and categories of knowledge do not just compound with human happiness and the wise self-knowledge that is sophrosyne. According to Epicurus, rational deliberation and introspection is the very precondition for human happiness and thus an unbending affront to the central premise of the supposed need for the poststructuralist emancipation-project. For according to the poststructuralist view, the very rational deliberation that Epicurus would have us engage in, in order to set us free, provokes “existential anxiety” and prohibits the delight in the senses that leads to true happiness.

3 Which Position is more Epistemologically Tenable?

Finally, leaving the question of happiness, we will look into which position is more epistemologically tenable. To this end we will need to define what kind of knowledge we are inquiring into. To this aim, I will present a theory not entirely unlike that of Karl Popper’s classical Three-world Theory to help us discern which kind of knowledge we are talking about.[27] The three kinds of knowledge that I will posit for this purpose are Immediate knowledge, Existential knowledge, and Objective knowledge. We will now look into each in turn.

Immediate Knowledge: By ‘Immediate knowledge’ we mean somatic, subjective and phenomenological knowledge. For example, how do you subjectively experience the phenomenon of thirst; what personal psychological connotations do you attach to it; what unconscious associations does thirst whirl up in you? This kind of knowledge is profoundly personal to the point where it cannot be communicated onto others; indeed even if it could, doing so would border on meaninglessness as the knowledge is both idiosyncratic and so inwardly richly textured that any recounting of the experience onto the other would be but a pale shadow of one’s own Immediate knowledge of it.

Hence, with regards to the domain of Immediate knowledge, Epicurean epistemology falls rather flat: To Epicurus, fear of phenomena is always lurking around the corner; a rainbow may be beautiful, but it could also be an omen; a particular dish may be delightful, but it may also sow the seeds of avarice and obesity.[28] Thus the Epicurean ‘cure’ is always to distance oneself from subjective and personal experience and seek a rational, trans-personal explanation to put in the place of personal meaning.[29] Thus, Epicurean epistemology is the enemy of Immediate knowledge.

By contrast, however, Immediate knowledge is the stated soteriological goal of poststructuralist epistemology.[30] It is through the intense and boundary-absolving experience of immediate reality that one can really live as a subject-less, emancipated, indefinable agent.[31] As we have seen, crime, drugs, sexual and political violence are all acceptable (and at times, recommended) as means to the end that is the poststructuralist conception of Immediate knowledge. Indeed, as we saw from Foucault above, anything short of the extreme is nothing.[32] By the same token, that is also why, when Foucault was asked to characterize Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophical project, with its somber system of personal ethics, the former had but one word for it: “Terrorism”.[33]

However, when examining the poststructuralist recipe for inquiring into Immediate knowledge, we should be aware of a crucial critical interjection: Why are the extreme limit-experiences perceived as holding the key to an immediate understanding of reality when the brunt of reality plainly does not consist of such experiences? Of course, as the poststructuralists would no doubt posit, this touting of the limit-experience as a source of truer knowledge is due to the fact that our everyday notion of reality is to some degree socially constructed, wherefore we should seek out experiences that are not associated with our everyday lives in order to steal a peek at what lies behind the web of social constructs – to de-construct it, so to speak.

Yet a pertinent rejoinder presents itself in the face of this response: How can reality be defined by marginal experiences that are not central to it? Indeed in other sciences, researchers are often encouraged to discard outliers, while poststructuralists would seem to accord value only to outliers. In the same vein, if one wanted to say something about human cognition, one would get a skewed picture if one only used the exceptionally bright and the exceptionally dull for data. There is a fundamental misnomer at work here, which is how and why it becomes reasonable to the post-structuralist to inquire into a thing solely by virtue of its extremes all the while ignoring the bulk of it. And after all, even in a life filled with limit-experiences, the everyday sensations of thirst, hunger, sleep, fiscal ruminations and sex will remain largely the same with regards to Immediate knowledge.

Existential knowledge: By ‘Existential knowledge’ we mean extant knowledge of reality as it exists and the psychological self-knowledge that can be derived from this type of knowledge in order to allow man to find a personally meaningful place in the universe and a sense of purpose in life. This knowledge is not entirely rational, but nor is it entirely irrational. Existential knowledge is not impersonal (like Objective knowledge; to which we will turn shortly), but nor it is entirely personal (like Immediate knowledge, with which we have just dealt). Naturally this “middle of the road” quality makes the exact properties of Existential knowledge hard to pin down, but in making the attempt, we will posit that Existential knowledge is a kind of psychological knowledge or insight into reality. It is the type of knowledge that we all use when we decide whether to pursue one prospective partner over another, or deciding whether to have (more) children or that the family is now of an adequate size. It is the type of knowledge of which the fruits are sophrosyne (wise self-insight) which is attained through critical introspection and gnōthi seauton (knowledge of the self).[34]

Now at first glance it might seem like poststructuralist epistemology would be a good source of Existential knowledge (after all, several of most prominent poststructuralist philosophers were the intellectual scions of the great French existentialists). But, inspired by the Indian philosopher Nāgārjuna (ca. 150–250 CE), we will argue that limit-experiences, of the kind trumpeted by poststructuralists, in fact constitute a hindrance to Existential knowledge.

According to Nāgārjuna, intense emotional experiences will not at all allow you to conceive reality any clearer than adherence to the rational cogito.[35] Both the insistence on rational knowledge (as trumpeted by Epicureans) and a familiarity with limit-experiences will, according to Nāgārjuna, ultimately distance your mind from the true nature of reality. But the poststructuralist approach will be the worse of the two, and for two reasons:

(1) Limit-experiences are so intense that they will tie your experience of reality to your own emotional life, whereas reality is far vaster than the personal subject. The poststructuralists claim that limit-experiences are so intense that they will dismantle the personal subject, but indeed, who has ever seen a shell-shocked soldier experiencing sudden bursts of universal empathy or an inexplicable experience of the vastness of the cosmos? Thus, limit-experiences will dismantle a person’s rational notion of his or her subject, but limit-experiences will not at all dismantle a person’s practical focus or groundedness in his or her own subject, quite the contrary; being shell-shocked, raped or cut with a knife (all examples of limit-experiences) will only serve to preoccupy a person all the more with his or her own well-being. Thus, as existence is obviously larger than one person’s pain or pleasure, limit-experiences will actually serve as a diminishment of Existential knowledge.

(2) By its very definition, a limit-experience is so intense that it will flood a person’s cognition with the derived effects of that particular experience. But a limit-experience is not something vast and multi-faceted; indeed it is usually of a quite singular nature. Conseuently going through a limit-experience will again diminish one’s ontological outlook. For example, let us say that a person is suspended in space, looking over Times Square in New York City: If he is stuck in the Epicurean cogito, he will see knowledge-categories walk by: Young/old, male/female, rich/poor, human, pigeon, dog and so on. If he is a follower of Nāgārjuna, he will see no categories, as he will pass no rational judgment (having relinquished the Epicurean cogito), and yet he will be keenly observant – he would indeed experience something like the transgressory state that limit-experiences supposedly lead to. However, if our observer is undergoing a limit-experience while watching the activity at Times Square – if he is simultaneously being subjected to intense physical pain, for example – our observer will surely not notice much of the activity in Times Square, as he will be completely overwhelmed by the limit-experience and thus attached to a narrow corner of existence rather than to existence itself.[36]

Thus poststructuralist epistemology is most certainly not a good source of Existential knowledge.

What about Epicurean epistemology as a source of Existential knowledge, then? As Nāgārjuna would have it, rational knowledge and knowledge-categories would also be a hindrance to existential knowledge yet not one that is nearly as bad.[37] If one’s primary approach to reality is through knowledge-categories (such as young/old, male/female, rich/poor, human, pigeon, dog etc.), then one is indeed depriving oneself of Existential knowledge as one would naturally miss all the idiosyncrasies and in-betweens that are present outside of the subject’s pre-conceived mental pigeonholes. But, as opposed to the limit-experience which, as we have seen, is a tyrant of the psyche, knowledge-categories at least constitute a reductionist model of reality and thus a broader outlook than the one provoked by the the limit-experience.

Thus, while poststructuralist epistemology as a source of Existential knowledge is decidedly poor, Epicurean epistemology is simply ok.

Objective knowledge: By ‘Objective knowledge’ we mean much the same as what Karl Popper meant by his Third World, that is, the state of our scientific and objective knowledge as it exists in books, letters, on discs, hard drives etc.[38] Without going into it here, we shall also assume, as did Popper, that the epistemology of the Third World is possible, even without a knowing subject.[39] This condition is not central to our argument, but it will help us unite our inquiry into Objective knowledge with the subject-less philosophy of poststructuralism.

4 Conclusion

While poststructuralism may indeed surpass the traditional Epicurean-Cartesian system with regards to auiring self-knowledge of one’s everyday persona, the poststructuralist adherence to the limit-experience is flawed as a source of Existential knowledge, and regarding objective, scientific knowledge, only the Epicurean-Cartesian system of rational knowledge will ultimately do.

Immediate Knowledge Existential Knowledge Objective Knowledge
Epicureanism Poor Ok Good
Poststructuralism Good Poor Poor

References
Ansell-Pearson, Keith: An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist (Cambridge University Press 1994)
Bülow, Katharina von: Contredire est undevoir (Le débat September-October 1986)
Dean, Michell: Critical And Effective Histories: Foucault’s Methods and Historical Sociology (Routledge 1994)
Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F.: Thousand Plateaus – Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Continuum International Publishing Group 1994)
Dews, Peter: Logics of Disintegration: Post-structuralist thought and the claims of critical theory (Verso Books 2007)
Ferry, L. & Renaut, A.: French Philosophy of the Sixties (University of Massachusetts Press 1990)
Foucault, Michel: Abnormal: Lectures at the College De France 1974-75 (Verso Books 2003)
Foucault, Michel: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage 1995)
Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 1995 ed.)
Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 2006 ed.)
Foucault, Michel: Religion and Culture (Manchester University Press 1999)
Foucault, Michel: The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences (Routledge 2004)
Gutting, Gary (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (Cambridge University Press 2005)
Heidegger, Martin: Being and Time (Blackwell Publishers 1974)
Kelly, Michael: Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault / Habermas Debate (The MIT Press 1994)
Lyotard, Jean-François: Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Stanford University Press 1994)
Lyotard, Jean-François: Libidinal Economy (Continuum 2004)
Lyotard, Jean-François: The Postmodern Condition (Manchester University Press 1984
Miller, James: The Passion of Michel Foucault (Harvard University Press 2000)
Nāgārjuna: Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend: With Commentary by Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche (Snow Lion Publications 2005)
Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: Writings from the Early Notebooks (Cambridge University Press 2009)
Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: Writings from the Late Notebooks  (Cambridge University Press 2003)
Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music (Cambridge University Press 1999)
Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: The Will to Power (Random House 1973)
Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: Twilight of the idols, or, How to philosophize with the hammer (Oxford University Press 2009)
Oksala, Johanna: Foucault on Freedom (Cambridge University Press 2005)
Popper, Karl R.: Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (Oxford University Press 1979)
Rabinow, Paul (ed.): Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, ed. (The New Press 1997)
Scott, G.A.: Does Socrates Have a Method?: Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato’s Dialogues and Beyond (Pennsylvania State University Press 2004)
Simons, Jonathan: Foucault and the Political (Routledge 1995)
Warren, James: Facing Death – Epicurus and his Critics (Oxford University Press 2004) pp. 155-6

Ancient Sources
Epicurus: The Four-Part Cure
Epicurus: The Letter to Pythocles
Epicurus: The Letter to Menoeceus
Epicurus: The Sage as an Ethical Role Model
Nāgārjuna (attributed): Hymn to the Dharmadhātu
Nāgārjuna: Letter to a Friend
Plato: Apology
Plato: Symposium
Plato: Theaetetus
Porphyry: The Letter To Marcella

NOTES

[1] Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F.: Thousand Plateaus – Capitalism and Schizophrenia pp. 3-4

[2] Heidegger, Martin: Being and Time p. 150, pp. 165-6, cf. Ferry, L. & Renaut, A.: French Philosophy of the Sixties p. 214

[3] Plato: The Theaetetus 210bc, cf. The Apology 29b, cf. The Symposium 218bc, cf. Scott, G.A.: Does Socrates Have a Method?: Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato’s Dialogues and Beyond pp. 204-7

[4] Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 1995 ed.) p. 287

[5] Dews, Peter: Logics of Disintegration: Post-structuralist thought and the claims of critical theory p. 259, cf. Foucault, Michel: “Michel Foucault: An Interview by Stephen Riggins“, featured in Rabinow, Paul (ed.): Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, ed. p. 129

[6] Foucault, Michel: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison pp. 127-131 cf. Dean, Michell: Critical And Effective Histories: Foucault’s Methods and Historical Sociology pp.164-167, cf. Kelly, Michael: Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault / Habermas Debate pp. 269-271

[7] Lyotard, Jean-François: Libidinal Economy p. 249

[8] Lyotard, Jean-François: The Postmodern Condition, §15. The full quote will convey the author’s intent: “A self does not amount to much, but no self is an island; each exists in a fabric of relations that is now more complex and mobile than ever before. Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, a person is always located at ‘nodal points’ of specific communication circuits, however tiny these may be.” That is supposedly to say: Only through the relinquishment of analytical knowledge-categories can the individual truly be himself. For further examples, see: Lyotard, Jean-François: Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime pp. 238-239

[9] Foucault, Michel: The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences p. xxvi cf. Foucault, Michel: Religion and Culture p. 23, cf. Miller, James: The Passion of Michel Foucault p. 32

[10] Foucault, Michel: A Preface to Transgression in Foucault, Michel: Religion and Culture pp. 57-72, and Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 2006 ed.) pp. 249-254, and Foucault, Michel: Abnormal: Lectures at the College De France 1974-75 pp. 173-4, cf. Gutting, Gary: The Cambridge Companion to Foucault p. 22, cf. Simons, Jonathan: Foucault and the Political pp. 69-70,

[11] Lyotard, Jean-François: The Postmodern Condition, §15

[12] Porphyry: The Letter To Marcella, 31

[13] Foucault, Michel: “Michel Foucault: An Interview by Stephen Riggins“, featured in Rabinow, Paul (ed.): Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, ed. p. 129

[14] Foucault, Michel: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison p. 30

[15] In Foucault’s rendition of the scientific episteme, van Gogh would supposedly need doctors’ permission to paint paintings. Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 2006 ed.) p. 203, 273

[16] Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 2006 ed.) p. 223

[17] Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 2006 ed.) pp. 100-101

[18] Foucault, Michel: Madness and Civilization (Routledge 2006 ed.) pp. 263-4

[19] Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: The birth of tragedy out of the spirit of music §22

[20] Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: The birth of tragedy out of the spirit of music, An Attempt at Self-Criticism §1, cf. Appendix, §2

[21] Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: Twilight of the idols, or, How to philosophize with the hammer, cf. Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: The birth of tragedy out of the spirit of music, §13 cf. Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: Notebook Entry, KSA 8.97, 6: “Socrates … I am constantly doing battle with him.”, cf. Nietzsche, Friedrich W.: The Will To Power, §432

[22] Ansell-Pearson, Keith: An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker: The Perfect Nihilist pp. 67-68

[23] Epicurus: The Four-Part Cure (“Do not fear God / Do not Worry about death / What is good is easy to get / and what is terrible is easy to endure.”), cf. Letter To Pythocles, 110, 111, cf. The Letter to Menoeceus, 124, 132, 133, cf. Warren, James: Facing Death – Epicurus and his Critics pp. 155-6

[24] Epicurus: Letter To Pythocles, 88, 89, 96, 97, 112

[25] Epicurus: The Letter to Menoeceus, 128, 133, cf. The Sage as an Ethical Role Model, 118-120

[26] Epicurus: The Letter to Menoeceus, 131

[27] Popper, Karl R.: Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach, chapters 3 and 4.

[28] Epicurus: The Letter to Pythocles, 98, 109, cf. Letter to Menoeceus, 132-133

[29] Epicurus: The Letter to Pythocles, 85

[30] Foucault, Michel: The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences p. xxvi cf. Foucault, Michel: Religion and Culture p. 23, cf. Miller, James: The Passion of Michel Foucault p. 32

[31] Foucualt, Michel, quoted in Oksala, Johanna: Foucault on Freedom p. 129

[32] Foucault, Michel: “Michel Foucault: An Interview by Stephen Riggins“, featured in Rabinow, Paul (ed.): Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, ed. p. 129

[33] Foucault, Michel, quoted in Bülow, Katharina von: Contredire est undevoir p. 177

[34] Plato: The Theaetetus 210bc, cf. The Apology 29b, cf. The Symposium 218bc, cf. Scott, G.A.: Does Socrates Have a Method?: Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato’s Dialogues and Beyond pp. 204-7

[35] Nāgārjuna: Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend: With Commentary by Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche p. 33, 93, 96, 150

[36] As we have seen, the poststructuralists claim that you cannot be free whilst experiencing the world through the rational cogito, but they fail to explain how one can be free while undergoing an arbitrary limit-experience. In the world of knowledge-categories there are at least several different categories to choose from, whereas in the world of limit-experiences there is only one limit experience at a time. The poststructuralist might argue that one can choose what type of limit-experience one would subject oneself to, thereby constituting a similar multitude of options, but how could a person choose between different types of limit-experiences without relying on knowledge-categories in the first place?

[37] This will be my argument, but I believe it fairly evident from passages such as Nāgārjuna’s Hymn to the Dharmadhātu, verse 6, trans. Donald Lopez in Lopez, Donald S., Jr. (ed.): Buddhist Scriptures (Penguin Books 2004) p. 466

[38] Popper, Karl R.: Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach p. 107

[39] Popper, Karl R.: Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach pp. 115-117

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