Ethics without substances: Foucault, mishnaic ethics, and human ontology

05 Dec 2017

The purpose of this article is twofold: to illuminate Foucault by looking at the Mishnah, and to illuminate the Mishnah by looking at Foucault. We argue that the Mishnah challenges the universality of Foucault’s claims about ancient thought. Yet, at the same time, Foucault’s framework helps to highlight ways in which the Mishnah can be read as a signpost for advancing contemporary philosophical thought. While in its outward form, the Mishnah puts forth an account of normative-legal duties to God and to human beings, we show that it can also be read as an exemplary instance of an ethics without a substantialist ontology.