An each-way bet: Foucault and theology

Steven Ogden

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstract


Rightly, philosophers have been wary of theologians. In turn, theologians have been wary of Foucault. In recent years, however, a small number of theologians have begun to mine his rich vein of thought. Of course, Foucault rigorously critiqued the Church, but he was not avowedly anti-Church. Foucault once quipped “I have a very strong Catholic background, and I am not ashamed.” In general, it is difficult to categorize Foucault’s work, which seems fitting for a philosopher who eschewed categories. In particular, his relation to theology is hard to categorize. Arguably, it hinges on what I am calling his “meta-ethical gaze”, which shapes his work on subjectivity and freedom, resonating with the best of contemporary theology. In other words, there is something fascinating about the way he sees things. As such, across various contexts, Foucault affirms the critical tradition of thought as a form of resistance, upholds personal freedom, encouraging a self-transformation that benefits others, where the value and integrity of the human body is recognized. These Foucauldian truths transcend specific contexts, and reflect something of his meta-ethical gaze. Certainly, Foucault attempted to desacralise his work (History of Madness). Nonetheless, there are also theological sediments,which are embedded deeply in terms like spirituality and salvation (The Hermeneutics of the Subject). As such, the aim of this paper is not to make Foucault a theologian, let alone a practicing Catholic, but instead, it is to analyse the complex relationship between his work and theology, exploring both the limits and the possibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAustralasian Society for Continental Philosophy: Annual Conference 2017 - University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
Duration: 29 Nov 201701 Dec 2017


ConferenceAustralasian Society for Continental Philosophy
Internet address


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