Language could be nothing more than a higher-order instrument of thought: a physical representation of ideas, having no meaning except in relation to them. 3.2.2 Kants Critique of Classical Representation foucault maintains that the great turn in modern philosophy occurs with Kant (though presumably he is merely an example of something much broader and deeper). Kant raises the question of whether ideas do in fact represent their objects and, if so, how (in virtue of what) they. In other words, ideas are no longer taken as the unproblematic vehicles of knowledge; it is now possible to think that knowledge might be (or have roots in) something other than representation. This did not mean that representation had nothing at all to do with knowledge. Perhaps some (or even all) knowledge still essentially involved ideas representing objects. But, foucault insists, the thought that was only now (with Kant) possible was that representation itself (and the ideas that represented) could have an origin in something other than representation. This thought, according to foucault, led to some important and distinctively modern possibilities.
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The only possibility is that the house idea itself must make it apparent that it is a representation. The idea represents the very fact that it is a representation. As to the question of whether an idea is a representation, this self-referential feature is all there is. As to adequacy, it must be that some subset of ideas plan likewise bear witness to their own adequacy—as, for example, descartes clear and distinct perceptions or Humes simple impressions. In this sense, early modern philosophy is based on intuition (intellectual or sensory). Note, however, that an intuition of an ideas adequacy does not, of itself, establish the independent existence of the object represented by the idea. As far as the early modern view is concerned, there may be no such objects; or, if there are, this needs to be established by some other means (e.g., an argument or some other sort of intuition). We see, then, that for foucault the key to Classical knowing is the idea, that is, mental representation. Classical thinkers might disagree about the actual ontological status of ideas (their formal reality but they all agreed that as representations (epistemically, if not ontologically) they were non-physical and non-historical; that is, precisely as representing their objects, they could not be conceived as having any. From this it further followed that language—precisely as a physical and/or historical reality—could have no fundamental role in knowledge.
This is not because the roads have the properties of the map (the widths, lengths, and colors of the lines) but because the abstract structure general given in the map (the relations among the lines) duplicates the abstract structure of the roads. At the heart of Classical thought is the principle that we know in virtue of having ideas that, in this sense, represent what we know. Of course, in contrast to the map, we do not need to know what the actual features of our ideas are in virtue of which they are able to represent. (In Descartes scholastic terminology, we do not need to know their formal reality.) we need to know only the abstract structure that they share with the things they represent (the structure of what Descartes calls their objective reality). We do, however, have direct (introspective) access to the abstract structures of our ideas: we can see what representational structure they have. Further, we can alter an ideas structure to make it a better representation of an object, as we can alter a map to improve. How, on the Classical view, do we know that an idea is a representation of an object—and an adequate representation? Not, foucault argues, by comparing the idea with the object as it is apart from its representation. This is impossible, since it would require knowing the object without a representation (when, for Classical thought, to know is to represent).
At the heart of his account is the notion of representation. Here we focus on his treatment of representation in philosophical thought, where we find foucaults most direct engagement with traditional philosophical questions. 3.2.1 Classical Representation foucault argues that from Descartes up to kant (during what he calls the Classical Age) representation was thesis simply assimilated to thought: to think just was to employ ideas to represent the object of thought. But, he says, we need to be clear about what it meant for an idea to represent an object. This was not, first of all, any sort of relation of resemblance: there were no features (properties) of the idea that themselves constituted the representation of the object. (saying this, however, does not require that the idea itself have no properties or even that these properties are not relevant to the ideas representation of the object.) by contrast, during the renaissance, knowledge was understood gender as a matter of resemblance between things. The map is a useful model of Classical representation. It consists, for example, of a set of lines of varying widths, lengths, and colors, and thereby represents the roads in and around a city.
Foucaults next history, the birth of the Clinic (1963) also presents a critique of modern clinical medicine. But the socio-ethical critique is muted (except for a few vehement passages presumably because there is a substantial core of objective truth in medicine (as opposed to psychiatry) and so less basis for criticism. As a result The birth of the Clinic is much closer to a standard history of science, in the tradition of Canguilhems history of concepts. 3.2 The Order of Things The book that made foucault famous, les mots et les choses (translated into English under the title The Order of Things is in many ways an odd interpolation into the development of his thought. Its subtitle, an Archaeology of the human Sciences, suggests an expansion of the earlier critical histories of psychiatry and clinical medicine into other modern disciplines such as economics, biology, and philology. And indeed there is an extensive account of the various empirical disciplines of the renaissance and the Classical Age that precede these modern human sciences. But there is little or nothing of the implicit social critique found in the history of Madness or even The birth of the Clinic. Instead, foucault offers an analysis of what knowledge meant—and how this meaning changed—in Western thought from the renaissance to the present.
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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. The focus of minnesota his questioning is the modern human sciences (biological, psychological, social). These purport to offer universal scientific truths about human nature that are, in fact, often mere expressions of handbook ethical and political commitments of a particular society. Foucaults critical philosophy undermines such claims by exhibiting how they are the outcome of contingent historical forces, not scientifically grounded truths. Each of his major books is a critique of historical reason.
3.1 Histories of Madness and Medicine foucaults History of Madness in the Classical Age (1961) originated in his academic study of psychology (a licence de psychologie in 1949 and a diplome de psycho-pathologie in 1952 his work in a parisian mental hospital, and his own. It was mainly written during his post-graduate wanderjahren (195559) through a succession of diplomatic/educational posts in Sweden, germany, and Poland. A study of the emergence of the modern concept of mental illness in Europe, history of Madness is formed from both foucaults extensive archival work and his intense anger at what he saw as the moral hypocrisy of modern psychiatry. Standard histories saw the nineteenth-century medical treatment of madness (developed from the reforms of Pinel in France and the tuke brothers in England) as an enlightened liberation of the mad from the ignorance and brutality of preceding ages. But, according to foucault, the new idea that the mad were merely sick (mentally ill) and in need of medical treatment was not at all a clear improvement on earlier conceptions (e.g., the renaissance idea that the mad were in contact with the mysterious forces. Moreover, he argued that the alleged scientific neutrality of modern medical treatments of insanity are in fact covers for controlling challenges to conventional bourgeois morality. In short, foucault argued that what was presented as an objective, incontrovertible scientific discovery (that madness is mental illness) was in fact the product of eminently questionable social and ethical commitments.
There is, however, more than a hint of protesting too much in foucaults rejection of Sartre, and the question of the relation of their work remains a fertile one. Three other factors were of much more positive significance for the young foucault. First, there was the French tradition of history and philosophy of science, particularly as represented by georges Canguilhem, a powerful figure in the French University establishment, whose work in the history and philosophy of biology provided a model for much of foucaults work in the. Canguilhem sponsored foucaults doctoral thesis on the history of madness and, throughout foucaults career, remained one of his most important and effective supporters. Canguilhems approach to the history of science (an approach developed from the work of Gaston Bachelard provided foucault with a strong sense (in some ways Kuhnian avant la lettre, see entry on scientific revolutions, section.3 ) of the discontinuities in scientific history, along with. Foucault found this understanding reinforced in the structuralist linguistics and psychology developed, respectively, by ferdinand de saussure and Jacques Lacan, as well as in georges Dumézils proto-structuralist work on comparative religion.
These anti-subjective standpoints provide the context for foucaults marginalization of the subject in his structuralist histories, The birth of the Clinic (on the origins of modern medicine) and The Order of Things (on the origins of the modern human sciences). In a quite different vein, foucault was enthralled by French avant-garde literature, especially the writings of georges Bataille and maurice Blanchot, where he found the experiential concreteness of existential phenomenology without what he came to see as dubious philosophical assumptions about subjectivity. Of particular interest was this literatures evocation of limit-experiences, which push us to extremes where conventional categories of intelligibility begin to break down. This philosophical milieu provided materials for the critique of subjectivity and the corresponding archaeological and genealogical methods of writing history that inform foucaults projects of historical critique, to which we now turn. Major Works 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. Kants 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. What might have seemed just contingent features of human cognition (for example, the spatial and temporal character of its perceptual objects) turn out to be necessary truths.
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Maladie mentale et personnalité, a short book on mental illness) were written in diary the grip of, respectively, existentialism and Marxism. But he soon turned away from both. Jean-paul Sartre, working outside the University system, had no personal influence on foucault. But, as the French master-thinker of the previous generation, he is always in the background. Like sartre, foucault began from a relentless hatred of bourgeois society and culture and with a spontaneous sympathy for marginal groups such as the mad, homosexuals, and prisoners. They both also had strong interests in literature and psychology as well as philosophy, and both, after an early relative lack of political interest, became committed activists. But in the end, foucault seemed to insist on defining himself in contradiction to sartre. Philosophically, he rejected what he saw as Sartres privileging of the subject (which he mocked as transcendental narcissism). Personally and politically, he rejected Sartres role as what foucault called a universal intellectual, judging society by appeals to universal moral principles, such as the inviolability of individual freedom.
Intellectual Background, we begin, however, with a sketch of the philosophical environment in which foucault was educated. He entered the École normale. Supérieure (the standard launching pad for major French philosophers) in 1946, during the heyday of existential phenomenology. Merleau-ponty, whose lectures he attended, and heidegger were particularly important. Hegel and Marx were also major interests, hegel through write the interpretation of his work offered by jean Hyppolite and Marx through the structuralist reading of louis. Althusser—both teachers who had a strong impact on foucault at the École normale. It is not surprising that foucaults earliest works (his long Introduction to jacqueline. Verdeaux French translation of, traum und, existenz by ludwig Binswanger, a heideggerian psychiatrist, and.
victim of aids, foucault died in Paris on June 25, 1984. In addition to works published during his lifetime, his lectures at the. Collège de France, published posthumously, contain important elucidations and extensions of his ideas. One might question whether foucault is in fact a philosopher. His academic formation was in psychology and its history as well as in philosophy, his books were mostly histories of medical and social sciences, his passions were literary and political. Nonetheless, almost all of foucaults works can be fruitfully read as philosophical in either or both of two ways: as carrying out philosophys traditional critical project in a new (historical) manner; and as a critical engagement with the thought of traditional philosophers. This article will present him as a philosopher in these two dimensions.
Headlines 11m ago 30m ago 3h ago 3h ago. Zuma press/Newscom, jun 27 3:04, jun 26, suggested Interests. Biographical sketch, foucault was born in poitiers, France, on October 15, daddy 1926. As a student he was brilliant but psychologically tormented. He became academically established during the 1960s, holding a series of positions at French universities, before his election in 1969 to the ultra-prestigious Collège de France, where he was Professor of the history of Systems of Thought until his death. From the 1970s on, foucault was very active politically. He was a founder of the.
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