The third difference between Baudelaire's and Kant's critical modernities is in their different viewpoints on historical progress. What connects Kant's essay on the Enlightenment with Baudelaire's dandyism is, in Foucault's view, the fact that the (promise of reconciliation or happiness) of both thinkers is embedded in the promise of critique. Yet, I contend that, at the same time, there are some significant differences between the two, which are worth taking up here so that we may better understand the specific character of Foucault's own interpretation of the terms 'modernity' and 'Enlightenment'. What I particularly have in mind here is that, unlike in Kant, the promise of reconciliation in Baudelaire's modern aesthetics is not rooted in the individual's public usage of reason. Instead, the possibility of redemption or reconciliation is actualised in the aesthetic constitution of what he simply calls 'modernity' or 'modern subjectivity.'
Despite the importance of Foucault's ideas in reconsidering notions of the self, identity and sexuality, his late writings on the aesthetics of the self have also been the subject of heated debate, not least among feminist intellectuals. One major line of criticism that has been levelled at Foucault's work is that he ignores the gendered nature of the philosophical tradition of the aesthetics of the self, and that this has resulted in certain gender blindness in his theory. As various feminist critiques have pointed out, in his inquiries Foucault re-creates a model of self-mastery that depends on a struggle to subordinate the feminine characteristic of immoderation to the male body and self and that (unlike the female body and self) also becomes a locus of artistic creation. This seems to be true not only of his late work on the ancient Greco-Roman aesthetics of the self, presented in the two last parts of his 1985/1984 and , 1986/1984), but also of his essay on the Enlightenment, in which he connects the ancient theme of the aesthetics of the self to Kant's and Baudelaire's notions of modernity.
essay on THe Enlightenment and THe Scientific Revolution
Yet, the critical question soon arises that if Foucault does not even attempt to provide universally valid norms for human action and morality, how can we avoid the situation in which the subject who commits crimes, rapes or kills, for example, is merely considered to be realizing his/her freedom and creating a unique aesthetics of the self? From where, in other words, can we seek moral criteria for action if the only critical basis we have is that individual autonomy tests the limits of the self and the present? This is not an easy question, as Foucault himself acknowledges in his essay on the Enlightenment. For if we limit ourselves to exclusively partial and local inquiry (such as studying the individual practices of the self), we seem to run the risk of letting ourselves be determined by some more general structures over which we have no control, and of which we may even not be conscious.