My proposal is to read the film Doubt (by John Patrick Shanley), associating Father Flynn’s speech to a way of subjectivation practiced by Christian asceticism, and Sister Aloysius’s speech to a way of subjectivation practiced by philosophical asceticism. The distinctions made by Michel Foucault between philosophical and Christian asceticism are relevant to support this reading. In his last classes, Foucault studied Parrhesia as a practice of “truth telling”. It was a “game” whose aim was an ethical education for a freedom way of life; according to parrhesiaste masters (as Socrates, e.g.), the student who is able to take care of him/herself will be someone (politic, teacher, soldier etc) able to take care of others as well. This exercise of care of the self was the philosophical practice of askésis. Foucault argues that Christian asceticism started the confession, aiming only salvation (of sins, crimes, diseases) – not the care of the self. This practice (confession) expanded to other institutions, not only religious, as legal testimony, clinical survey etc. It is necessary to know the truth of the subject, make him/her pay a penalty and then absolve him/her – which does not mean an ethical change of this subject.
In that point it is important to think about some of these notions and concepts – asceticism, parrhesia and even philosophy – in order to establish fundamental differences between the subject of self-care and the subject of self-knowledge – subjects taken as equivalent, in the name of a knowledge of the truth, for other uses, such as discipline and control.
Even though the story told in Doubt brings up themes like priesthood votes and pedophilia, doubt itself becomes the central issue of the film. The question is: how to live with inner doubts, intimate and subjective desires, within Christian doctrines that build truths from self-renounce?