The Care of the Self is the third and possibly final volume of Michel Foucault's widely acclaimed examination of "the experience of sexuality in Western society." Foucault takes us into the first two centuries of our own era, into the Golden Age of Rome, to reveal a subtle but decisive break from the classical Greek vision of sexual pleasure. He skillfully explores the whole corpus of moral reflection among philosophers (Plutarch, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca) and physicians of the era, and uncovers an increasing mistrust of pleasure and growing anxiety over sexual activity and its consequences.
In this absorbing study, Foucault discusses the attitudes toward sexuality prevalent in Hellenistic Greece and Rome. Classical Greece's view of sex as a means of obtaining individual pleasure faced increasing challenge in Hellenistic times. The love of boys now assumed more muted tones, often finding itself at odds with the highly valued ideals of marital fidelity and virginity. The Stoic approach, as Foucault demonstrates in a nuanced discussion, both resembled and differed from the asceticism of Christianity. This volume, perhaps the last that will appear of the author's posthumous History of Sexuality ( LJ 10/15/78; 12/1/85) manifests Foucault's powerful analytic ability. Though at times it draws very broad conclusions from the discussion of relatively few texts, it is still highly recommended. David Gordon, Social Philosophy & Policy Ctr., Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio