Sunday, May 10, 2009

90 Michel Foucault

Since its beginnings with Socrates, philosophy has typically involved the project of questioning the accepted knowledge of the day. Later, Locke, Hume, and especially, Kant developed a distinctively modern idea of philosophy as the critique of knowledge.

Kant's great epistemological innovation was to maintain that the same critique that revealed the limits of our knowing powers could also reveal necessary conditions for their exercise, the a priori concepts.

What might have seemed just contingent features of human cognition (for example, the spatial and temporal character of its objects) turn out to be necessary truths.

Foucault, however, suggests the need to invert this Kantian move. Rather than asking what, in the apparently contingent, is actually necessary, he suggests asking what, in the apparently necessary, might be contingent.

This is a perfect characterization of Foucault's philosophical program. And for this I am gratefull to the author of the article on Foucault in the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy.

Allthough I may say that this is a perfect characerization of Foucault, some among you might think...oh ..well a little explanation and clarification would be dearly welcomed. So, let's get to work.

When you study Foucault's works you'll find a few important conclusions. We tend to believe that history is some kind of continueous development. Foucault tries to demonstrate that this is not the case.

So called scientific truth is accoding to Foucault a temporary construct, not a source but an effect of human actions. And this is a theme you find in many of his works. What is said to be truth, is in fact a means to control. What is alledgedly done in the name of science, is in fact done to control the individual.

As a good Continental philosopher he uses interpretative methodes to clarify his findings and opinions. Foucault uses two: one is what he called the archeological method and the second is his genealogical analysis.

The premise of the archaeological method is that systems of thought and knowledge are governed by rules, beyond those of grammar and logic, that operate beneath the consciousness of individual subjects. They define a system of conceptual possibilities that determines the boundaries of thought in a given domain and period.

What does Foucault mean by that? He wrote studies on social phenomena as madness, punishment, sexuality. All through history there is the word 'madness' and the phenomenon madness for instance.

Now take these words: "conceptual possibilities that determines the boundaries of thought". For Foucault this meant that in the Renaissance the word madness meant that mad people were in touch with all kinds of cosmic and esoteric powers. In other words, an simple reason for calling them witches, heretics, possesed and thence a way to control them, which was equivalent to removing them from society.

In our time the bounderies of thought are different from those days. Madness has become mental illness. To control people that deviate from general social behavior, we now say that they are sick and we put in institutions for instance. Whoever calls herself a witch today is regarded with a smile, but not the one that needs to be socially controlled.

In other words, according to Foucault, every "given domain and period" comes with its own "scientific" knowledge and truth and it is always about the relation between knowledge and power, power to control the individual.

The point of a genealogical analysis is to show that a given system of thought was the result of contingent turns of history, not the outcome of rationally inevitable trends.

Here we have a sensitive point in Foucault philosophy. He wants to proof that history is not a progressive evolution of our rationality, but just a kind of random development where the development mainly is determined by the justification of power and control over the individual.

What I have mentioned in former lectures too, is again my observation and this time with Foucault, that we see a movement towards all kinds of relativism. And Foucault is a Continental representative of that development.

We'll keep a close eye on this development in our last 10 lectures of this project.

The Discussion

[13:34] Herman Bergson: So much on Foucault
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: i was confused by the difference in archeological and geneological by him
[13:34] Laila Schuman: i agree with him re: power and what is allowed... for example... science today can only do what is FUNDED.... and there is a lot of behind the scenes policy making that can influence that...beyond what is needed for science
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: by his interpretation
[13:34] Mickorod Renard: surely history is a descriptive collection of events showing how one thing won control over another,,,nothing new there
[13:35] arabella Ella: even some bloggers are funded today by large corporations as their spin doctors
[13:36] Laila Schuman: right
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes even the military
[13:36] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:36] arabella Ella: itsme ... the question remains ... what is truth? is 'truth' a means of control?
[13:36] Mickorod Renard: in a coup the first thing to take over is the media
[13:36] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:36] Herman Bergson: I am online so I am
[13:37] Laila Schuman: smiles
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:37] arabella Ella: nice one herman
[13:37] Gemma Cleanslate: we have been taken away
[[13:37] arabella Ella: dont be too sure you am cos u are online tho
[13:37] Alarice Beaumont: lol must be
[13:37] Herman Bergson: God just he exists
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: :))
[13:37] Mickorod Renard: we been telling u this for ages
[13:37] Herman Bergson: But back to Foucault
[13:37] Qwark Allen: :-))
[13:37] arabella Ella: Godfrey you mean?
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: i tried to e-mail god.. but the mail server said it could not be delivered:)
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Archeology and genealogy
[13:38] arabella Ella: and 'truth' and 'control'
[13:38] Herman Bergson: Foucault's methoth was to dig into history
[13:39] Herman Bergson: and through the ages show layer by layer how the meaning of a word changed and why
[13:39] Mickorod Renard: history is written by the victors (controllers)
[13:39] arabella Ella: like 'madness' herman?
[13:39] Herman Bergson: yes..
[13:40] Laila Schuman: like ART
[13:40] Herman Bergson: in the Midlle Ages..possed by the devil
[13:40] arabella Ella: do you think foucault was obsessed with controlling institutions like prisons and 'mad houses'?
[13:40] Herman Bergson: renaissance...withcraft and things like that
[13:40] Herman Bergson: 1800 ..mental illness
[13:40] Herman Bergson: so only then it all of a sudden became sick peole
[13:41] arabella Ella: schools also say they impart the 'truth' but to a great extent they are controlling mechanisms too
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: in older societies madness was a sign of the person being inhibited by some godlike spirit.. and in islam a mad person is someone who should be treated as someone like that..
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: Is 'terror' the latest method of control?
[13:41] Ze Novikov: good point Ari
[13:41] arabella Ella: @ Ari ... yes in the media in the USA
[13:41] Mickorod Renard: those in control have always feared the mob
[13:42] Herman Bergson: Interesting remark Aristotle...
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: madness and visionary-shaman- was considered the same-- well-close...
[13:42] Herman Bergson: It is presented as a piece of true if everyone knows what it means, stands for...
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: ari.. if you look at history- terror is as old as humanity..
[13:42] Herman Bergson: but it is a political tools to control
[13:42] Gemma Cleanslate: never mind the media there has been real "fear" control for the past 8 years here
[13:43] Laila Schuman: right
[13:43] Mickorod Renard: wheres that Gemma?
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: in teh usa
[13:43] arabella Ella: yes Gemma but most of it is fabricated by the media in the USA
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: i thinkk not!!
[13:43] Laila Schuman: by our fearless leader
[13:43] Qwark Allen: and by the government
[13:43] Alarice Beaumont: yes.. i would agree Arabella
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: i think fabricated by the present administration
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: the source of the motivation is illusive
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: NOT the media
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: in the UK we are all mad, so dont have any fear
[13:44] arabella Ella: @ Gemma ... those of us in europe see things differently
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: when we talk about media-- we talk about influencing through propaganda.. go study goebbels in the 3.rd reich...
[13:44] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: teh media merely responds and colludes
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: we interpret what the media says if we are paying attention
[13:44] Herman Bergson: ok....back to Foucault
[13:44] Laila Schuman: depending upon who owns the publication/media
[13:44] Gemma Cleanslate: yes
[13:44] arabella Ella: Media can also be controlled by its owners (funding) and by vested interests, plus by PR of large corporations
[13:45] Laila Schuman: right arabella
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: difference between goebbels and today is he had a ideological goal.. media has economic goals..
[13:45] Alarice Beaumont: I'm not sure Ari... the media can influecnce people
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: Herman is going to hollar in a minute
[13:45] Gemma Cleanslate: lol
[13:45] Herman Bergson: People, this is not a talkshow broadcasted by these media!!!
[13:45] Mickorod Renard: Herman,,where does this lead us in philo?
[13:45] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:45] itsme Frederix: arabella .. science is also a media
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: isnt this what Foucault is alluding to as the use of power
[13:45] Laila Schuman: out of town appointment... must run... baiee all
[13:45] Mickorod Renard: bye
[13:45] Alarice Beaumont: bye Laila
[13:45] Qwark Allen: bye
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: bey Laila
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Bye LAila
[13:46] arabella Ella: yes it is itsme ...that is why i also mentioned schools as a means of control of flow of information ... select information of course
[13:46] Rodney Handrick: Bye Laila
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Ok....calm dowm and let's get organized a little on this issue..
[13:46] itsme Frederix: oke, so I think that's the point Foucoult is making
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: american shools are controlled by the government
[13:47] Herman Bergson: I think it is in line with Foucault to say that what is presented as a (scientific) theory or truth is pimarily a construct of a period in history
[13:47] Alarice Beaumont: in german too Ari
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: the receiving or denial of money is the power tool used to control them
[13:48] Alarice Beaumont: not the private schools
[13:48] arabella Ella: Herman could you give us an example of a scientific theory or truth as a construct of a period in history please?
[13:48] Herman Bergson: You should see it on a wider scale Aristotle...
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: yes pls
[13:49] Herman Bergson: it is for instance about accepted moral standards, what the control is about
[13:49] itsme Frederix: big deal what about the ether in the 19th century
[[13:49] Herman Bergson: Not only in education
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: hold it its..
[13:49] Herman Bergson: but also in public libraries, hospitals, the media....
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: I believe you are right Herman
[13:50] arabella Ella: ok libraries sounds interesting in today's context ...
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: it is insidious
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: hmmmmm
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: but some is to do with holding society together
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: away from anarchy
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: this sounds like socio-political about the individuals..
[13:50] Herman Bergson: Yes has to do with social organisation
[13:50] arabella Ella: or controlling 'free speech' perhaps?
[13:51] arabella Ella: turning us all into androids?
[13:51] Mickorod Renard: what makes humans so unique is that we work in a collected way
[13:51] Herman Bergson: But the philosophical point here this organisation a linear, logical development based on the growing rationality of mankind
[13:51] Herman Bergson: or is it based on something else
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: hmmm or at the least mere parasites
[13:51] arabella Ella: thank goodness herman still allows us the liberty of free speech!
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: lol well once in a while
[13:52] Herman Bergson: and that is what Foucault tries to show.....that something else
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: he does
[13:52] Mickorod Renard: whats the something else again?
[13:52] arabella Ella: so the development of humanity is not rational or linear Herman?
[13:52] hope63 Shepherd: if we talk about a growing rationality.. this needs a basic rationality in the beginning..
[13:53] Herman Bergson: First of all the fact that the development is based on contingent developments in history
[13:53] itsme Frederix: sure Hope and a way to measure it ... seems that results do not always count, most are irrational/notwanted
[13:53] arabella Ella: but surely contingent developments cannot be controlled can they otherwise would they still be contingent?
[13:54] Herman Bergson: In other words , you could say that Foucault did not belief in teleology...
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: U mean what we see as correct is only the sum of what history has created?
[13:54] hope63 Shepherd: may be we have to go back into history first to answweer thqt question,mick..
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Yes mickorod, and then even only within a given period
[13:54] itsme Frederix: Herman so it turns out we are lost again
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: yea
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: so life is a lil like quantum therory
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Yes Itsme..I have nothing better to sell...^_^
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: lost.. just like someone who doesn't know his parents.. but they must have been there ..
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Maybe Hope.......
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Hope63 I mean :-)
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: lol
[13:56] itsme Frederix: I myself think teleology is wishfull thinking - I see no argument for it besides it might motivate or other psychological states
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: maybe i should change my name to despair or something close :)
[13:56] Herman Bergson: I agree, Itsme
[13:56] arabella Ella: LOL
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: to avoid confusions..:)
[13:56] Herman Bergson: Might help Hope
[13:56] itsme Frederix: But Hope, parents is ... cause/determinism
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: its a good job we have religion or where else may we have gotten
[13:57] itsme Frederix: or better history
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: well.. foucault is saing that we are conditioned -determined by history.. or am i wrong..
[13:57] Qwark Allen: work is calling
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, that is avery good question Mick, how much farther woud we be?
[13:57] Qwark Allen: ty herman for interesting lesson
[13:57] arabella Ella: bye qwark!
[13:57] Qwark Allen: cya later friends
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Qwark
[13:58] Herman Bergson: thnx Qwark
[13:58] Qwark Allen: By Your Command.
[13:58] itsme Frederix: so in that we we are only lost if we go somewhere, but not if we realize we came from somewhere
[13:58] Ze Novikov: Off to RL, herman tyvm bb everyone....
[13:58] AristotleVon Doobie: :))
[13:58] Qwark Allen: ;-)))
[13:58] Mickorod Renard: we may have been more ruthless with our neighbours
[13:58] Mickorod Renard: bye ze
[13:58] Herman Bergson: For me there are a few issues...
[13:58] Alarice Beaumont: sorry crashed
[13:59] CONNIE Eichel: great class prof... bye all, event time for me, kisses :))
[13:59] Herman Bergson: first is what I said at the end of my lecture....the development towards all kinds of relativism
[13:59] Mickorod Renard: bye connie
[13:59] Herman Bergson: bye CONNIE
[13:59] hope63 Shepherd: see you around connie..
[14:00] Mickorod Renard: Herman,,I love foucall , he has opened my mind
[14:00] Ninjah Valeeva: Forgive me, but i must go
[14:00] Herman Bergson: A second thing Be well Ninjah
[14:00] Ninjah Valeeva: Thank you fo all
[14:00] Mickorod Renard: bye ninjah
[14:01] Herman Bergson: A second thing what fascinates me is....
[14:01] Alarice Beaumont: i think i really missed something
[14:01] Herman Bergson: I bought a book and it had as title in huge characters GOD
[14:02] arabella Ella: herman ... was it foucault who had said ... truth is an army of metaphors?
[14:02] Herman Bergson: and it was a complete overview of all cultures where they had some kind of god
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: and small characters saying "oh my?"
[14:02] Herman Bergson: lol yes hope
[14:02] Herman Bergson: Dont know arabell, but it sounds nice
[14:02] itsme Frederix: Hope and capitals ... I searching for God but do not find him
[14:03] arabella Ella: yes herman it is one of those phrases i will never forget i hope ;)
[14:03] arabella Ella: (or should i have said ... i despair and not i hope?)
[14:03] Herman Bergson: again a sign of this relativism which lives these days
[14:03] Mickorod Renard: u must explain it to me ara
[14:03] hope63 Shepherd: its.. just like in your contracts you sign-- you overlook the small but it is there:)
[14:04] itsme Frederix: Hope they mostly say I do not have to read those - takes to much time
[14:05] hope63 Shepherd: could take what's in your purse
[14:05] Mickorod Renard: well i think its all very cool,,and now i got even more stuff in my head to ponder over
[14:05] itsme Frederix: Foucault is interesting indeed
[14:05] Herman Bergson: well Mickorod...there will come some more
[14:06] Mickorod Renard: lol
[14:06] Mickorod Renard: is he next week too?
[14:06] arabella Ella: well foucault is easy to read both in his work about prisons and madness and in his work on sexuality
[14:06] AristotleVon Doobie: I love it when hewas aske why he idsavowed his earlier work and he said he had work hard all these years and it did not make sense to be saying the same things
[14:06] hope63 Shepherd: i think he is interesting because -after strauss-levy-- they start to think in different dimensions.. including history.f.ex..
[14:07] itsme Frederix: he also is a child of his time, time that founed part of our world
[14:07] Herman Bergson: yes are we all...
[14:07] Herman Bergson: My most interestinfg experience in this was
[14:07] itsme Frederix: He was in these day a revolutonary in Paris 1968
[14:08] hope63 Shepherd: al lasst philosophers look like we do:)
[14:08] arabella Ella: oh during the student revolts
[14:08] Herman Bergson: as a beginning student in philosophy I wrote down all kinds of 'profound' houghts
[14:08] Herman Bergson: with the intention to use these fo my publications
[14:08] arabella Ella: have you resolved any of them yet herman?
[14:08] Herman Bergson: when I specialized in Analytical philosphy
[14:09] Herman Bergson: I had to discover that all my thoughts were already thought
[14:09] hope63 Shepherd: you don't resolve thoughts ara.. you have them:)
[14:09] Herman Bergson: even before I was born!
[14:09] hope63 Shepherd: history caught up with you herman :)
[14:09] arabella Ella: yes hope using metaphor since we have lost truth i suppose
[14:09] arabella Ella: and herman what you just said is in line with derrida who says everything hs already been written
[14:09] itsme Frederix: the days of Lacan
[14:10] Herman Bergson: No...I concluded that I was a child of my time
[14:10] arabella Ella: cool
[14:10] hope63 Shepherd: you are some days ahead of us
[14:10] arabella Ella: apologies!
[14:10] itsme Frederix: or you were child that time Herman
[14:10] Herman Bergson: that would be the 20s and 30s then Itsme
[14:11] itsme Frederix: oke if you want so
[14:11] Mickorod Renard: we are always a child up till we die
[14:11] Herman Bergson: I am trying to grow up Mickorod...
[14:11] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[14:11] Alarice Beaumont: men never really grow up ;-)
[14:12] hope63 Shepherd: don't herman.. your class will be dull if you do.:)
[14:12] Rodney Handrick: lol
[14:12] AristotleVon Doobie: I have not LOL
[14:12] arabella Ella: about foucault, though herman, dont you think he sometimes sounds more like an antropologist?
[14:12] itsme Frederix: growing up is bumping your head - if not outside then sure inside
[14:12] Herman Bergson: that's why my wife always say..don be that childish...ah ..ok ^_^
[14:12] arabella Ella: LOL
[14:12] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[14:12] Mickorod Renard: but we are always looking for answers
[14:12] Herman Bergson: Foucault didnt see himself as a philosopher
[14:13] arabella Ella: no?
[14:13] itsme Frederix: arabella - the same I said about Levi-Straus. Seems these guy look more to people than before
[14:13] Herman Bergson: more as a historian of thought
[14:13] arabella Ella: ok ty
[14:13] AristotleVon Doobie: his major was philosphy, he incidentally slipped into anthropology
[14:13] Herman Bergson: What he did was historical research mainly
[14:13] hope63 Shepherd: i think socrates didn't call himself a philosopher either...
[14:13] hope63 Shepherd: others did-- later...
[14:14] Herman Bergson: He majored in psychology and history according to my information
[14:14] Mickorod Renard: proberbly had a greek name for it?
[14:14] Herman Bergson: He never was involved with antropology
[14:14] hope63 Shepherd: well.. he had a publisher--
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-10-05 07:42:25

No comments:

Post a Comment