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CLASSICS 300 - The Roots of Western Sexuality
Dr. J. Francis, Rollins College (Fall 1993)

Notes on the conceptual scheme in M. Foucault,
The Use of Pleasure (History of Sexuality vol. 2)

On pp. 15-20, Foucault examines four instances in which classical pagan and later Christian sexual morality have been thought to differ. He concludes that in all these areas characteristics usually considered Christian or modern have roots in classical antiquity. These four instances are:
  1. fears concerning health
  2. the ideal of monogamous married love
  3. images of homosexual men
  4. exhortation to abstain from sexual activity

These four instances introduce the four "areas of problematization," the focal points at which sexual activity became a problem and a behavioral and moral concern in antiquity. Foucault broadly divides his book into sections dealing with these four areas:

The BodyWomenBoysWisdom

These areas have specific manifestations and concerns:

Health & the regimen to maintain it

Marriage, family, & roles of women

Male homosexuality & self-control

Abstinence & the ultimate purpose of love & sex

Foucault classifies these into broad categories
which give the parts of his book their titles:

pp. 95-140
pp. 141-184
pp. 185-226

("True Love")
pp. 227-254

The resolution of the problem areas and the regulation of sexuality is the province of morality. In classical Greece, morality centered less on formal, EXTERNAL codes of behavior than on the INTERNAL dynamics of the individual in "his" relation both to himself and his society. From this perspective, Foucault's four "areas of problematization" can be seen as four relationships:

Self to one's body

Self to opposite sexSelf to same sexSelf to wisdom

These relations are connected with four moral concepts for which Foucault uses original Greek terms. Each moral concept finds its primary focus in one area of problematizaion, but also overlaps into other areas:



Aphrodisia -- the UNITY of sexual act/pleasure/desire, the very intensity of which causes sexuality to become problematic

Chresis -- "use"; the power of aphrodisia means that it must be used and regulated rightly, this regulation is however PRIMARILY meant to assure pleasure

Enkrateia -- "self-control", the power one must have over oneself to use aphrodisia rightly; connected to ascesis which is "training in self-denial"

Sophrosyne -- "discretion" or "wisdom", it also means "chastity"; the KNOWLEDGE, which can be of the ultimate meaning of the nature and purpose of love/sex, by which one can practice aphrodisia, chresis, and enkrateia successfully