Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Michel Foucault - The Order of Things - Part 2

*A moment here on gendered language. Foucault talks all about “man” and the “history of man” and “man’s idea of himself” and blah blah blah. If this were an undergrad paper, I’d be all “Don’t do that!” but this is Foucault, so I’m gonna shut up and listen, like a woman is supposed to do anyway, I suppose.
Chapter 7: The Limits of Representation
And now we come to History. To what Foucault calls the “mutation of Order into History” that occurs at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries (Foucault, 220). This capitalized History Foucault says, “gives place to analogical organic structures, just as Order opened the way to successive identities and differences. … It is the fundamental mode of being of empiricities, upon the basis of which they are affirmed, posited, arranged, and distributed in the space of knowledge for the use of such disciplines or sciences as may arise (Foucault, 219).” It took “a fundamental event – certainly one of the most radical that ever occurred in Western culture – to bring about the dissolution of the positivity of Classical knowledge, and to constitute another positivity form which, even now, we have doubtless not entirely emerged (Foucault, 220-221).” Not only that, but this event, the event the precipitated the mutation of Order into History, “probably because we are still caught inside it, is largely beyond our comprehension (Foucault, 221).” This is the event whereby,
to classify… will no longer mean to refer the visible back to itself, while allotting one of its elements the task of representing others; it will mean, in a movement that makes analysis pivot on its axis, to relate the visible to the invisible, to its deeper cause, as it were, then to rise upwards once more from that hidden architecture towards the more obvious signs displayed on the surface of bodies (Foucault, 229).
In other words, “organic structure intervenes between the articulating structures and the designating characters – creating between them a profound, interior, and essential space (Foucault, 231)” and thus, “the very being of that which is represented is now going to fall outside representation itself (Foucault, 240).”
Okay, so how to put this? I remember that when I was reading this book this summer, I was trying to explain to my roommate, and I remember explaining this moment, and it making sense when I did it, and right now I would do anything to have tape of that moment. Basically, there was a direct connection between a thing and a word. That word went to that thing for a reason, because of something essential about that thing that was shared with that word, and that was why they were connected. At this point, though, things start to be considered distinct entities that can be related to each other in classes, plants, trees, species, etc. and the words that describe them, and those relationships of classification, but they do not emanate from them, or resemble them.
I’m honestly not sure that I’m not reducing this too much or that I’ve really read it correctly, but that’s about the most sense of it that I can make at the moment.
Chapter 8: Labour, Life, Language
The three terms that comprise the title of this chapter are what Foucault calls the “”quasi-transcendentals” that are constituted for us by “the thought that is contemporaneous with us, and with which, willy-nilly, we think, is still largely dominated by the impossibility, brought to light towards the end of the eighteenth century, of basing syntheses in the spaces of representation (Foucault, 250).” At the end of the eighteenth century, what was happening was that,
The visible order, with its permanent grid of distinctions, is now a superficial glitter above an abyss.
The space of Western knowledge is now about to topple: the taxinomia, whose great, universal expanse extended in correlation with the possibility of a mathesis, and which constituted the down-beat of knowledge – at once its primary possibility and the end of its perfection – is now about to order itself in accordance with an obscure verticality: a verticality that is to define the law of resemblances, prescribe all adjacencies and discontinuities, provide the foundation for perceptible arrangements, and displace all the great horizontal deployments of the taxinomia towards the somewhat accessory region of consequences. Thus, European culture is inventing for itself a depth in which what matters is no longer identities, distinctive characters, permanent tables with all their possible paths and routes, but great hidden forces developed on the basis of their primitive and inaccessible nucleus, origin, causality, and history (Foucault, 251).
Thus, “what changed at the turn of the century, and underwent an irremediable modification, was knowledge itself as an anterior and indivisible mode of being between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge (Foucault, 252).” And those “quasi-transcendentals,” Foucault says, “are fundamental modes of knowledge which sustain in their flawless unity the secondary and derived correlation of new sciences and techniques with unprecedented objects (Foucault, 253).” From here, he goes on to explore how one can discern signs of these emergent modes “doubtless buried deep down in the dense archaeological layers” in Ricardo’s work in economics, Cuvier’s in biology, and Bopp’s in philology. A few quotes here for each of them. It’s pretty straightforward, so I’m not going to editorialize, best to just get onto the really rich stuff in Chapter Nine:
The positivity of economics is situated in that anthropological hollow. Homo oeconomicus is not the human being who represents his own needs to himself, and the objects capable of satisfying them; he is the human being who spends, wears out, and wastes his life in evading the imminence of death. He is a finite being: and just as, since Kant, the question of finitude has become more fundamental than the analysis of representations (the latter now being necessarily a derivation of fashion, upon an anthropology that attempts to assign concrete forms to finitude. Foucault, 257
The tide of History will at last become slack. Man’s finitude will have been defined – once and for all, that is, for an indefinite time.
Paradoxically, it is the historicity introduced into economics by Ricardo that makes it possible to conceive of this immobilization of History. Foucault, 259
At the deepest level of Western knowledge, Marxism introduced no real discontinuity; it found its place without difficulty, as a full, quiet, comfortable and, goodness knows, satisfying form for a time (its own), within an epistemological arrangement that welcomed it gladly (since it was this arrangement that was in fact making room for it) and that it, in return, had no intention of disturbing and, above all, no power to modify, even one jot, since it rested entirely upon it. Marxism exists in nineteenth-century thought like a fish in water: that is, it is unable to breathe anywhere else. Foucault, 262
From Cuvier onward, it is life in its non-perceptible, purely functional aspect that provides the basis for the exterior possibility of a classification. The classification now arises from the depths of life, from those elements most hidden from view. Before, the living being was a locality of natural classification; now, the fact of being classifiable is a property of the living being. So the project of a general taxinomia disappears; the possibility of deploying a great natural order which would extend continuously from the simplest and most inert of things to the most living and the most complex disappears; and the search for order as the ground and foundation of a general science of nature also disappears. ‘Nature’, too, disappears – being understood that nature, throughout the Classical age, did not exist in the first place as a ‘theme’, as an ‘idea’, as an endless source of knowledge, but as a homogenous space of orderable identities and differences. Foucault, 268
Life is no longer that which can be distinguished in a more or less certain fashion from the mechanical; it is that in which all the possible distinctions between living beings have their basis. It is this transition from the taxonomic to the synthetic notion of life which is indicated, in the chronology of ideas and sciences, by the recrudescence, in the early nineteenth century, of vitalist themes. From the archaeological point of view, what is being established at this particular moment is the conditions of possibility of a biology. Foucault, 269
From Cuvier onward, the living being wraps itself in its own existence, breaks off its taxonomic links of adjacency, tears itself free from the vast, tyrannical plan of continuities, and constitutes itself as a new space: a double space, in fact – since it is both the interior one of anatomical coherences and physiological compatibilities, and the exterior one of the elements in which it resides and of which it forms its own body. But both these spaces are subject to a common control: it is no longer that of the possibilities of being, it is that of the conditions of life. Foucault, 274
Here, on the contrary, a system of thought is being developed in which individuality, with its forms, limits, and needs, is no more than a precarious moment, doomed to destruction, forming first and last a simple obstacle that must be removed from the path of that annihilation; a system of thought in which the objectivity of things is mere appearance, a chimera of the perceptions, an illusion that must be dissipated and returned to the pure will, without phenomenon, that brought those things into being and maintained them there for an instant; lastly, a system of thought for which the recommencement of life, its incessant resumptions, and its stubbornness, preclude the possibility of imposing a limit of duration upon it, especially since time itself, with its chronological divisions and its quasi-spatial calendar, is doubtless nothing but an allusion to knowledge. Foucault, 279
If the word is able to figure in a discourse in which it means something, it will no longer be by virtue of some immediate discursivity that it is thought to possess in itself, and by right of birth, but because, in its very form, , in the sounds that compose it, in the changes it undergoes in accordance with the grammatical function it is performing, and finally in the modifications to which it finds itself subject in the course of time, it obeys a certain number of strict laws which regulate, in a similar way, all the other elements of the same language; so that the word is no longer attached to a representation except in so far as it is previously a part of the grammatical organization by means of which the language defines and guarantees its own coherence. Foucault, 280-81
Etymology will therefore cease to be an endless regress towards a primitive language entirely stocked with primal, natural cries; it becomes a definite, limited method of analysis, the aim of which is to discover within any given word the radical from which it has been formed: ‘The roots of words were brought to light only after the successful analysis of inflection and derivations’ [J. Grimm, L’Origine du langage (Fr. Trans. Paris, 1859, p.7.]. Foucault, 288
We speak because we act, and not because recognition is a means of cognition. Like action, language expresses a profound will to something. Foucault, 290
Empiricity – and this is equally true of natural individuals and of the words by which they can be named – is henceforth traversed by History, through the whole density of its being. The order of time is beginning. Foucault, 293
By being cut off from that which it represents, language was certainly made to emerge for the first time in its own particular legality, and at the same time it was doomed to be re-apprehensible only within history. Foucault, 294
Classical knowledge was profoundly nominalist. From the nineteenth century, language began to fold in upon itself, to acquire its own particular density, to deploy a history, an objectivity, and laws of its own. It became one object of knowledge among others. on the same level as living beings, wealth and value, and the history of evens and men. It may possess its own concepts, but the analyses that bear upon it have their roots at the same level as those that deal with other empirical forms of knowledge. The preeminence that enabled general grammar to be logic while at the same time intersecting with it has now been lost. To know language is no longer to come as close as possible to knowledge itself; it is merely to apply the methods of understanding in general to a particular domain of objectivity. Foucault, 296
Finally, the last compensations for the demotions of language, the most important, and also the most unexpected, is the appearance of literature, of literature as such – for there has of course existed in the Western world, since Dante, since Homer, a form of language that we now call ‘literature.’ … Literature is the contestation of philology (of which it is nevertheless the twin figure): it leads language back from grammar to the naked power of speech, and there it encounters the untamed, imperious being of words. From the Romantic revolt against a discourse frozen in its own ritual pomp, to the Mallarméan discovery of the word in its impotent power, it becomes clear what the function of literature was, in the nineteenth century, in relation to the modern mode of being language. … it breaks with the whole definition of genres as forms adapted to an order of representations and becomes merely a manifestation of a language which has no other law that that of affirming – in opposition to all other forms of discourse – its own precipitous existence; and so there is nothing for it to do but to curve backing a perpetual return upon itself, as if its discourse could have no other content than the expression of its own form; it addresses itself to itself as a writing subjectivity, or seeks to re-apprehend the essence of all literature in the movement that brought it into being; and thus all its threads converge upon the finest points – singular, instantaneous, and yet absolutely universal – upon the simple act of writing. Foucault, 300
At the moment when language, as spoken an scattered words, becomes an object of knowledge, we see it reappearing in a strictly opposite modality: a silent, cautious deposition of the word upon the whiteness of a piece of paper, where it can possess neither sound nor interlocutor, where it has nothing to say but itself, nothing to do but shine in the brightness of its being. Foucault, 300
Chapter 9: Man and his Doubles
Here, Foucault tells us that “what Classical thought reveals is the power of discourse (Foucault, 310-11),” and that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as the law of discourse was now detached from representation, “the being of language itself” became “fragmented,” resulting in the focus of thought becoming the question “What is language, how can we find a way round it in order to make it appear in itself, in all its plenitude” and he sees this line of questioning as paralleling those also arising at the time about life (biology) and labour (political economy) (Foucault, 306). “Classical language, as the common discourse of representation and things, as the place within which nature and human nature intersect” excluded the possibility of a ‘science of man’ because “as long as that language was spoken in Western culture, it was not possible for human existence to be called in question on its own account, since it contained the nexus of representation of being (Foucault, 311).” With the decline of Classical language as the common discourse, such a ‘science of man,’ becomes possible; biology emerges from the breakdown of natural history. This event is “the appearance of man (Foucault, 317).”
This is the event of the end of metaphysics (Foucault, 317) and a
fourfold displacement in relation to the Kantian position, for it is now a question not of truth, but of being; not of nature, but of man; not of the possibility of understanding, but of the possibility of a primary misunderstanding; not of the unaccountable nature of philosophical theories as opposed to science, but of the resumption in a clear philosophical awareness of that whole realm of unaccounted-for experiences in which man does not recognize himself (Foucault, 323).
Foucault gives a really beautiful description of what this concept of man is that emerges, which I’ll quote in full:
No doubt, on the level of appearances, modernity begins when the human being begins to exist within his organism, inside the shell of his head, inside the armature of his limbs, and in the whole structure of his physiology; when he begins to exist at the centre of a labour by whose principles he is governed and whose product eludes him; when he lodges his thought in the folds of a language so much older than himself that he cannot master its significations, even though they have been called back to life by the insistence of his words. But more fundamentally, our culture crossed the threshold beyond which we recognize our modernity when finitude was conceived in an interminable cross-reference with itself. Though it is true, at the level of the various branches of knowledge, that finitude is always designated on the basis of man as concrete being and on the basis of the empirical forms that can be assigned to his existence, nevertheless, at the archaeological level, which reveals the general, historical a priori of each of those branches of knowledge, modern man – that man assignable to his corporeal, labouring, and speaking existence – is possible only as a figuration of finitude. Modern culture can conceive of man because it conceives of the finite on the basis of itself. Foucault, 318
Man, thinking of himself as such “inside the shell of his head” is the beginning of the modern. With the end of metaphysics Foucault turns to the beginning of phenomenology, which he says is “much less the resumption of an old rational goal of the West than the sensitive and precisely formulated acknowledgement of the great hiatus that occurred in the modern episteme at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Foucault, 325).” Phenomenology, he says, has an “allegiance,” if it has any, to “the discovery of life, work, and language; and also to the new figure which, under the old name of man, first appeared less than two centuries ago… to interrogation concerning man’s mode of being and his relation to the unthought (Foucault, 325).” The “unthought (whatever name we give it),” Foucault quickly explains, “is not lodged in man like a shriveled-up nature or a stratified history; it is, in relation to man, the Other: the Other that is not only a brother but a twin, born, not of man, nor in man, but beside him and at the same time, in an identical newness, in an unavoidable duality (Foucault, 326).” So, with the emergence of a man who conceives of himself as finite, of and in his mind and body, a twin Other is born at the same time.
Here Foucault turns to the question of morality as it existed in these periods. He says that “it is clear that the West has known only two ethical forms. The old one (in the form of stoicism or Epicureanism) was articulated upon the order of the world, and by discovering the law of that order it could deduce from it the principle of a code of wisdom or a conception of the city (Foucault, 328).” Modernity, on the other hand,
formulates no morality, since any imperative is lodged within thought and its movement towards the apprehension of unthought [the Other]; it is reflection, the act of consciousness, the elucidation of what is silent, language restored to what is mute, the illumination of the element of darkness that cuts man off from himself, the reanimation of the inert – it is all this and this alone that constituted the content and form of the ethical (Foucault, 328).
The rupture in language that sundered apart the thing and the word, produced a gap between “man and himself,” as he is now occupied by trying to think that gap, to think the unthought, his own otherness to himself and the otherness of the Other. thus, “Modern thought has never, in fact, been able to propose a morality. But the reason for this is not because it is pure speculation; on the contrary, modern thought, from its inception and in its very density, is a certain mode of action (Foucault, 328).” Modernity produced ethics, way of living in and with finitude, not morality, or a code for being. Foucault explains that, “superficially, one might say that knowledge of man, unlike the sciences of nature, is always linked, even in its vaguest form, to ethics or politics; more fundamentally, modern thought is advancing towards that region where man’s Other must become the same as himself (Foucault, 328).”
Thus, “man is cut off from the origin that would make him contemporaneous with his own existence: amid all the things that are born in time and no doubt die in time, he, cut off from all origin, is already there (Foucault, 332).” I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around this part of Foucault’s argument, but its relation to historicity is clearly important. He says that in modernity, “it is no longer origin that gives rise to historicity,” but rather,
it is historicity that, in its very fabric, makes possible the necessity of an origin which must be both internal and foreign to it: like the virtual tip of a cone in which all differences, all dispersions, all discontinuities would be knitted together so as to form no more than a single point of identity, the impalpable figure of the Same, yet possessing the power, nevertheless, to burst open upon itself and become the other (Foucault, 332).
The modern sense of history creates a position for man in which he is constantly seeking an original the concept of which would not exist without his idea of history. Thus, t
The incommensurability of he incommensurability of man and his origin is mirrored in the incommensurability of man and himself, his double, the Same or the Other. Constituted as outside of himself, he is thus constituted to conceive of an inside, and origin. Of this, Foucault says, “Western culture, the being of man and the being of language have never, at any time, been able to coexist and to articulate themselves one upon the other. their incompatibility has been one of the fundamental features of our thought (Foucault, 339).” And thus, there is a constant push and pull in modern thought as man tries to think his way through a concept of time that has, itself, constituted his thinking.
Foucault describes the philosophical consequences of modern thought thusly,
Calling to one another and answering throughout modern thought and throughout its history, we find a dialectical interplay and an ontology without metaphysics: for modern thought is one that moves no longer towards the ever-to-be-accomplished unveiling of the Same. Now, such an unveiling is not accomplished without the simultaneous appearance of the Double, and that hiatus, miniscule and yet invincible, which resides in the ‘and’ of retreat and return, of thought and the unthought, of the empirical and the transcendental, of what belongs to the order of positivity and what belongs to the order of foundations. Foucault, 340
And then he gets to the fun stuff: Nietzsche.
In this, Nietzsche, offering this future to us as both promise and task, marks the threshold beyond which contemporary philosophy can begin thinking again; and he will no doubt continue for a long while to dominate in advance. If the discovery of the Return is indeed the end of philosophy, then the end of man, for its part, is the return of the beginning of philosophy. It is no longer possible to think in our day other than in the void left by man’s disappearance. For this void does not create a deficiency; it does not constitute a lacuna that must be filled. It is nothing more, and nothing less, than the unfolding of a space in which is once more possible to think. Foucault, 342
Before he goes out on a pretty darned amazing bang, if you ask me:
To all those who still wish to talk about man, about his reign or his liberation, to all those who still ask themselves questions about what man is in his essence, to all those who wish to take him as their starting-point in their attempts to reach truth, to all those who, on the other hand, refer all their knowledge back to the truths of man himself, to all those who refuse to formalize without anthropologizing, who refuse to mythologize without demystifiying, who refuse to think without immediately thinking that it is man who is thinking, to all these warped and twisted forms of reflection we can answer only with a philosophical laugh – which means, to a certain extent, a silent one. Foucault, 342-43
Whoa. Right? Whoa. **swoon**
Last Chapter. Ready… go.
Chapter 10: The Human Sciences
Yeah, so this is kind of what I mean about how I got to the end of the book and felt like I maybe sort of could have skipped all that tricky representation footwork at the beginning and just gone straight to this sexy stuff at the end. Because at the end, he says stuff like this:
The epistemological field traversed by the human sciences was not laid down in advance: no philosophy, not political or moral option, no empirical science of any kind, no observation of the human body, no analysis of sensation, no imagination, or the passions, had ever encountered, in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, anything like man; for man did not exist (any more than life, or language, or labour); and the human sciences did not appear when, as a result of some pressing rationalism, some unresolved scientific problem, some practical concern, it was decided to include man (willy-nilly, and with a greater or lesser degree of success) among the objects of science – among which it has perhaps not been proved even yet that it is absolutely possible to class him; they appeared when man constituted himself in Western culture as both that which must be conceived of and that which is to be known. Foucault, 344-45
And that’s the twist for man and his double: man is that which has to do the knowing and is the thing to be known. Why Foucault waits to say it so clearly until the next chapter, I don’t know. Thus, the human sciences are,
are not, then, an analysis of what man is by nature; but rather, an analysis that extends from what man is in his positivity (living, speaking, labouring, being) to what enables this same being to know (or seek to know) what life is, in what the essence of labour and its laws consist, and in what way he is able to speak. The human sciences thus occupy the distance that separates though not without connecting them) biology, economics, and philology form that which gives them possibility in the very being of man (Foucault, 353).
Thus, Foucault argues, it can be understood why the categories of “the norm, the rule, and the system” (this part is a little bit about Freud, which is important, but is not something on which I focused in my notes, sorry) “can structure the entire field of the human sciences” and can “span it from end to end.” It is, “because they both hold apart and link together the empirical positivites of life, labour and language (on the basis of which man first detached himself historically as a form of possible knowledge) and the forms of finitude that characterize man’s mode of being (as he constituted himself when representation ceased to define the general space of knowledge (Foucault, 362).” Not only that, but “they also permit the dissociation, which is characteristic of all contemporary knowledge about man, of consciousness and representation (Foucault, 362).” And here, we get back to representation, because “representation is not simply an object for the human sciences” it is “the very field upon which the human sciences occur, and to their fullest extent (Foucault, 363).” Representation “is the general pedestal of that form of knowledge (Foucault, 363).”
And here is where Freud is important, because with psychoanalysis comes the concept of the unconscious, as such. Thus, Foucault argues, that “we shall say, therefore, that a ‘human science’ exists, not wherever man is in question, but wherever there is analysis – within the dimension proper to the unconscious – of norms, rules, and signifying totalities which unveil to consciousness of its forms and contents (Foucault, 364).” So how are we supposed to continue thinking about this trap in our thinking about ourselves thinking? Archaeologically, of course. To think of the “historicity proper to man” not as one that is inscribed in the very depths of his being, that enables him to adapt himself like any living being, and to evolve like any living being (though with the help of tools, techniques, and organization belonging to no other living being) that enables him to invent forms of production, to stabilize, prolong, or abridge the validity of economic laws by means of the consciousness he attains of them and by means of the institutions he constructs upon or around them, and that enables him to exercise upon language, with every word he speaks, a sort of constant interior pressure which makes it shift imperceptibly upon itself at any given moment in time (Foucault, 370).
But instead, to think in such a way that considers “the history of the positivities” in which “there appears another, more radical history, that of man himself – a history that now concerns man’s very being, since he now realizes that he not only ‘has history’ all around him, but is himself, in his own historicity, that by means of which a history of human life, a history of economics, and a history of languages are given their form (Foucault, 370).” It comes back to history here, because, well, because it’s Foucault, but also because,
even when they avoid all reference to history, the human sciences (and history may be included among them) never do anything but relate one cultural episode to another (that to which they apply themselves as their objects, and that in which their existence, their mode of being, their methods, and their concepts have their roots); and though they apply themselves to their own synchronology, they relate the cultural episode from which they emerged to itself (Foucault, 371).
Thus, because of the human sciences’ relationship to history, “man never appears in his positivity and that positivity is not immediately limited by the limitlessness of History (Foucault, 371).” Which is to say that, “by unveiling the unconscious as their fundamental object, the human sciences showed that there was always something still to be though in what had already been through on a manifest level; by revealing the law of time as the external boundary of the human sciences, History shows that everything that has been thought will be thought again by a thought that does not yet exist (Foucault, 372),” which is possibly my favorite line in the whole book.
Then we get back to literature (yay?). Literature (first with Surrealism, “then more, and more and more purely, with Kafka, Bataille, and Blanchot”) reveals a space “of unthinkable thought (Foucault, 383-84) and is produced by and productive of a “return of language (Foucault, 384).” This “return of language”
is not a sudden interruption in our culture; it is not the irruptive discovery of some long-buried evidence; it does not indicate a folding back of thought upon itself, in the movement by which it emancipates itself form all content, or narcissism occurring within a literature freeing itself at last form what it has to say in order to speak henceforth only about the fact that it is language stripped naked. It is, in fact, the strict unfolding of Western culture in accordance with the necessity it imposed upon itself at the beginning of the nineteenth century (Foucault, 384).
Thus, Foucault concludes, “since man was constituted at a time when language was doomed to dispersion, will he not be dispersed when language regains its unity (Foucault, 386)?” And with still more questions on the matter, he concludes the chapter:
Ought we not admit that, since language is here once more, man will return to that serene non-existence in which he was formerly maintained by the imperious unity of Discourse? Man had been a figure occurring between two modes of language; or, rather, he was constituted only when language, having been situated within representation and, as it were, dissolved in it, freed itself from that situation at the cost of its own fragmentation: man composed his own figure in the interstices of that fragmented language. Of course, these are not affirmations; they are at most questions to which it is not possible to reply; they must be left in suspense, where they pose themselves, only with the knowledge that the possibility of posing them may well open the way to a future thought (Foucault, 386).
After all that, Foucault doesn’t really have a whole lot more to say in conclusion. He tells us that, “one thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge (Foucault, 386)” and then sort of goes ahead and summarizes the whole thing and offers some thoughts on where he sees it all going. I’ll quote in full:
Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area – European culture since the sixteenth century – one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledge prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things an their order, the knowledge of identities, differences, characters, equivalences, words – in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same – only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, and the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.
If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility – without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises –were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical though did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea. Foucault, 386-87
So how about that? Man” is just an “effect” of a change in how we order things, how we relate mots with choses and it could all change again… Pretty neat, right? Exciting times in which to… study religion.


  1. Believe it or not, You just safe my life with this post! I love foucault but...damn this book in particular is really hard to follow. Anyway,thanks again. You´re work have helped someone across the sea.



  2. Yes it has!!!

    THANK YOU so very much,
    from Cyprus!