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Foucault

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Nathan Crick

on 20 April 2018

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Transcript of Foucault

Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
Foucault Biography
Paul-Michel Foucault was born on 15 October 1926 in the city of Poitiers, west-central France, as the second of three children to a prosperous and socially conservative upper-middle-class family.
Grew up a self described "juvenile delinquent" whose father, a doctor, was a "bully."
In 1939, the Second World War broke out and France was occupied by Nazi Germany until 1945; his parents opposed the occupation and the Vichy regime, but did not join the Resistance.
In autumn 1946 Foucault was admitted to the elite École Normale Supérieure (ENS).He remained largely unpopular, spending much time alone, reading voraciously. His fellow students noted his love of violence and the macabre; on one occasion he chased a classmate with a dagger.
After a suicide attenmpt an ENS doctor suggested that his suicidal tendencies emerged from the distress of his homosexuality and involvement in the underground Parisian gay scene
Embracing the Parisian avant-garde, Foucault entered into a romantic relationship with the serialist composer Jean Barraqué, trying to produce great artistic work by making heavy use of drugs In August 1953, while holidayed in Italy, he encountered Nietzsche's work as "a revelation."
After working and studying in Sweden and Poland, in West Germany he completed his doctoral thesis,
Madness and Insanity: History of Madness in the Classical Age
in 1960. Became very active in movements for prison and psychiatric reform and socialist movements, and was known for his critique of power.
Ten years of working as a psychiatrist, journalist, and activist, and lecturer, landed him in 1970 at France's most prestigious intellectual institution, the Collège de France, which he held for the rest of his life. The only duty of this post is to give an annual series of lectures based on one’s current research.
Developed AIDS in 1984 and died soon after--although the cause was not made public for 2 years.
WAKE UP
DON'T BE AFRAID
From what?
Of what?
LOGOS
Once upon a time....
Michel was invited to give a lecture
But he was worried. He was scared of beginnings. Beginning anything is hard! It means coming up with something new!
I can't do that!
So he dreamed of being "carried away beyond all possible beginnings," imagining he was floating along on an unending sea of discourse, words, voices, of which he was but one. This was his DESIRE, to be absolved of responsibility.
Beginning of time
His speech here
But the INSTITUTION saw this fear, and assured Michel that he "should not be afraid of beginnings," for "a place has been made ready for it."
So Michel gave his speech according to the guidelines of the INSTITUTION....
And it was a great success.
Until...
Crap, I have totally been dominated.
THE END.
(So what happened?)
The world is but CHANCE and EVENTS!
Watch!
"Underneath the most ordered, dissimulating Logos is the chaos of the Harlem Shake."
-Nietzsche,
Twilight of the Idols
We are lulled to sleep by
Logophilia
(
love
of
logos
)
"What civilization has ever appeared to be more respectful of discourse than ours? Where has it ever been more honored, or better honored? Where has it ever been, seemingly, more radically liberated from its constraints, and universalized?" (1470)
There are 3 ways "Institutions" structure and maintain power through Logos, which defines and structures our relations to one another
Exclusion
Internal Procedures
Rules of Application
The goal of
Exclusion
is to either avert unpredictable speech or to find ways of rejecting it out of hand if it makes an appearance
Forbidden Speech
Division of Madness
Will to Truth
Object of speech
Circumstances
Subject of speech
The goal is to prevent speech by setting boundaries of appropriateness rooted in a natural order
The goal is to ignore speech by categorizing it as distorted, unusual, and hence "mad" and not worthy of interpreting at all
The goal is to delegitimize speech by positing a discourse which represents the world accurately according to the current standards of society's discourse. That is, to call it "false" or a "lie" by appealing to current beliefs.
Internal Procedures
provides mastery of power once "inside" a discourse by limiting chance, controlling events, and providing continuity without disruption
Commentary-Principle
Author-Principle
Disciplinarity
Rules of Application
determine who shall wield a discourse and how it shall be wielded once it is formed
Ritual
Societies of Discourse
Doctrines
Commentator (Erasmus)
Authoritative Text (Bible/Aristotle/Cicero)
A "commentator" is limited to revealing more "fully" what was in some original texts, thus showing its "Logos" or underlying meaning. This denies originality and assures us of continuity in meaning,
The idea of the "author" assures us that only a single coherent personality originated our canonical texts, thus enshrining our "Founding Fathers." This ignores all the forces and contingent effects that produced a work.
And even when we have no authoritative text or author (as in physics) we can still be assured of continuity through a "discipline" which absorbs all knowledge over time and becomes an authority unto itself, a Logos.
Rituals authorize speech by establishing the rules of its delivery and reception, so that any person can step into its form and gain authority by following its established rules.
Societies of discourse control the boundaries of who is allowed to participate in the construction or dissemination of a discourse according to boundary conditions
Doctrines can be detached from rituals and societies to stand alone, insofar as a person "accurately" represents the doctrine through adherence to its propositions and principles which bear intrinsic authority.
RESISTANCE
How do we emancipation ourselves from Logophilia/Logophobia?
Question the Will to Truth
Restore to Discourse its character as an Event
Throw off the sovereignty of the signifier
That is, question our desire to be "in the truth," to conform to what we think are the fixed and established rules, laws, language of the world.
Truth is always contingent.
That is, stop thinking of discourse (logos) as a "thing" that we repeat or transmit, and think of it as a performance or experience which always begins something new in its being performed or encountered at that moment.
Discourse is always a happening.
That is, challenge the authority of the individual word or sign to refer to some real, existential, permanent object in the world that exists without our participation or input.
Words are always hypotheses.
“I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” --Michel Foucault
WHAT IS POWER?
Power is a relationship negotiated between free subjects capable of resistance that enables one party to influence the actions of others without either (a) direct application of violent force or (b) need to solicit voluntary consent.
Power is exercised in society through institutions, laws, rules, norms, habits, expectations, punishments, threats, promises, and, most of all
discourses
(which are established and relatively coherent vocabularies for describing and regulating social practices). All of these operates "on the field of possibilities" we imagine for future behavior. Power thus is a "set of actions of possible actions" that makes certain behaviors more or less dificult, prudent, and enjoyable. Power is exerted in my imagination, my reason, my habits and attitudes.
Rhetoric in this case is therefore the strategic use of symbols to visualize, define, praise, and condemn these possibilities for the sake of constructing an entire field of action.
"Discourse (logos) is not simply that which translates struggles or systems of domination, but is the thing for which and by which there is struggle;
discourse is the power which is to be seized
." (1461) Meaning that the struggle for power is over the means through which the structure of power is defined, organized, and communicated.
"No doubt there is in our society a profound logophobia, a sort of mute terror against these events, against this mass of things said, against the surging up of all these statements, against all they could be violent, discontinuous, pugnacious, disorderly as well, and perilous about them--against this great incessant and disordered buzzing of discourse." (1470)
We should also rid ourselves of
Logophobia (fear of logos)
Full transcript