Parastemata
Paul Rabinow
Anthony Stavrianakis
Toward the Contemporary

Given the actual configurations of bios, our obligation is to use the following parastemata so as to give form to the process of making the actual contemporary. This process entails cases and casuistry.

1. The question; what is good for the subject? The virtues of inquiry series.
2. The obligation to form a judgment about configurations of the actual made warrantable by establishing determinations through inquiry.
3. The level of reality to which anthropological judgment attends: first, to the turning point of participant-observation at which and during which the present is made is made actual; the turning point of syndialepsis, at which and during which the actual is made contemporary.

Parastēma: Non-separation of Truth and Conduct

“The parastēma is not exactly a precept. It is not exactly the expression of something to be done. Parastēma is something to which we hold fast, which we must have in mind, which we must keep always before our eyes: it is the statement of a fundamental truth as well as the founding principle of conduct. [There is then] this connection, or rather this non-separation of things that are for us so different: the principle of truth and the rule of conduct."

Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, p. 291

Aurelius' Parastēmata

"What are these aforementioned parastēmata to which Marcus Aurelius refers when he says “To the aforementioned precepts yet another is added.” There are three of “these aforementioned parastēmata. They are found of course in the preceding paragraphs. One concerns what we should consider good: What is good for the subject? The second of the parastēmata concerns our freedom and the fact that in reality, for us, everything depends upon our own freedom to form an opinion [notre proper faculté d’opiner]. Nothing can quell or master this power; we are always free to form an opinion as we wish. The third of the parastēmata is the fact that there is basically only one level of reality that exists for the subject, and the only level of reality that exists for the subject is the moment itself: the infinitely small moment that constitutes the present.”

Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, 291.

Aurelius: Book 3, 11

"To the aids [parastēmata ] which have been mentioned let this one still be added:- Make for yourself a definition or description of the thing which is presented to you, so as to see what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety, and tell yourself its proper name, and the names of the things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will be resolved. For nothing is so productive of elevation of mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object which is presented to you in life, and always to look at things so as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it, and what worth everything has with reference to the whole, and what with reference to man, who is a citizen of the highest city, of which all other cities are like families; what each thing is, and of what it is composed, and how long it is the nature of this thing to endure which now makes an impression on me, and what virtue I have need of with respect to it .. At the same time however in things indifferent I attempt to ascertain the worth of each."