Form of the Determinations of Bios
Paul Rabinow
Anthony Stavrianakis
Form: Bios

What is the status of bios? It's not just an object. It is not a universal. It is an ontological historically determined 'something.' We are asking about this 'something.'
How did we get these determinations?
Why bring together the question of the modes and objects of bios and the excesses, deficiencies and means of those modes and objects?
It's so as to bring together conduct and truth.
There is something general and enduring about this, but the old answers cannot be sufficient.
When Foucault, or Aurelius himself, asks about the relation of conduct and truth, they have to pose it as a question. Neither of them answers the question, What is good for the subject?, or the other questions which link truth and conduct, such as which virtues are necessary to reflect on objects of thought. Why? Because these questions were ethical equipment for living. In our case, we require ethical equipment for thinking and inquiry, hence we are obliged to answer these questions in a determinate form. The determinate form enables us to pose these questions again, hence giving the general problem its specific historical ontology.

There are multiple ways of bringing together truth and conduct, for instance dignity is a contemporary topic. However, dignity did not arise out of our inquiry and hence some schema of the archonic would not help us to organize our determinations.

The issue at hand is what form to give determinations given that determinations arise out of a specific inquiry into historical ontological discordancies and indeterminacies? In order to do so you need to find a way of moving back and forth through different times and scales. The logos of our bios has a much longer historical span. This motion enables us to go to Marcus Aurelius and enjoy his discussions without in any way thinking that what he is doing and what we are doing are the same thing.

In the 21st Century with respect to people who claim to speak the truth about bios, how does one raise the truth-conduct question, given the determinations we established, we think the way to do it is by way of excess and deficiency.

This is a second order observation of a first order statement about the actuality of bios. Endy story 2004; a modernist break with the story of modern bios 1802. Insofar as Brenner recognizes that bios is still in continuity with bios of 1802, but is not reducible to the bios of 1802, then he actually has a contemporary relation to modern metrics/parastēmata; he’s telling them, that is what they are missing.


Techne tou biou is one of the oldest problems there is. The techne tou biou became a life long set of questions for a free citizen.
We’re trying to put this in relation to the bio sciences; so what is bios? Hence the question has new complexity to it; not only do we have a new understanding of "life" but we have an understanding that means we can change it. Hence Blumenberg's diagnosis of the originality of the modern ethos.

Histories of problematizations:
It would be a mistake to read Aurelius and say that the problem is the same; “what’s the good life?” That might be Mortimer Adler and the Great Books Tradition; likewise it would be a mistake to say the problems of techne tou bious have nothing to do with us.

Foucault showed us that diagnostically, there was a historical reproblematization of these general problems of how to lead your life. They become sites of thinking.

So: there is a pathway of the history of problematization that we are thankful we can take advantage of.
Blumenberg gives us one side; and Foucault gives us the other side, but neither brings them together through inquiry.

They provide us nonetheless with the tools to begin to determine some subset of a larger probelmatization of bios today; it’s modern and contemporary at the same time.

Aurelius was talking about bios but not biology. Darwin was thing about biology but not bios.
A pathway would allow us to draw from the past, knowing the limitations we have, yet nonetheless to work on forms, because the forms in the present are insufficient, inquiry has shown us.

Form: Subject-Subject

Form: the relation of the subject to the subject: is a bios question.
It’s been approached as logos question.
One can take up bios as a techne problem.
That’s partially why Foucault can go back to history of prolematizations, in which the relation of subject to subject; was fundamental; he was interested in the practices which enable this relationship.

We are making an argument that there is a category called practices;
Practices is at a higher level than bios.

Determinations are a set of series. The form depends on the inquiry and parastemata. Determinations arise out of inquiry, hence the form is not a carousel. No general form for determinations; there are multiple forms. The reason there are multiple forms is that determinations arise out of a practice of inquiry and are only identified as a set at a pausing point; then the question of what form to give them arises so as one can move towards instances, cases, parastemata etc.