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The Discourse on Language

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Sarah Kimsey

on 10 December 2013

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Transcript of The Discourse on Language

The Discourse on Language
People vs. Institution
People want to experience discourse
Institutions believe they alone give discourse its power
Anxiety and uncertainty of the power of speech and the dangers surrounding it
Hypothesis
“In every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organized, and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to evade its ponderous awesome materiality” (216).
Michel Foucault
Discourse is:
Controlled
Selected
Organized
Redistributed
Introduction
Exclusions Ruling Discourse
Prohibition
Cannot say what we want when we want
Certain rules apply to discourse
Demonstrate power and desire imbued in discourse
Example: politics and sexuality
3 types
objects
ritual
the right to speak
Division
the words of the madman
attentive silence of institutions
opposition: the question of reason and folly
content--how and why something is said--shows difference in reason and folly
Will to Truth
desire to know what is true
relies on institutional support
truth is in a state of continual flux
possibly developing out of a state of historical contingency
has its own history not consumed with the constraining truths
reinforced and accompanied by the practices of pedagogy
Author
“unifying principle in a particular group of writings/statements, lying at the origin of their significance, as the seat of their coherence” (221).
Disciplines
“Enables us to construct, but within a narrow framework” (222)
Subjection of Discourse
Ritual
"defines the qualifications required of the speaker” (225)
Discourse theory: shows how, when, why people should speak
already set up
governs special affairs
Fellowship of Discourse
ritual within a closed community
preserves or reproduces discourse for use within a closed community
“roles of speaking and listening were not interchangeable” (226)
Example: Rhapsodists
Doctrine
less flexible
conformity
appears to be the opposite of fellowship of discourse
available and accessible
“involves both speaker and the spoken, the one through the other” (226)
Social Appropriation of Discourse
Education may be the means through which people gain access to discourse.

Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or modifying the appropriation of discourse with the knowledge and the powers it carries with it.
Philosophical Themes
Founding Subjects
Writing

The act of making meaning from history
Originating Experience
Reading

The idea that meaning existed before anyone knew it

Opposes founding subjects
Universal Mediation
Exchange

Exchange of information through secrets

Things and events become discourse in the unfolding of essential secrets
Future Tasks for Foucault
1. Reversal –recognize the negative aspects of discourse

2. Discontinuity – understand the discontinuous parts as well as continuity

3. Specificity – more than a prior system of signifiers can account for a work

4. Exteriority – look outside of meaning for significance

Notions of Discourse
“They are notions, rather, of events and of series, with the group of notions linked to these; it is around such an ensemble that this analysis of discourse I am thinking of is articulated, certainly not upon those traditional themes which the philosophers of the past took for 'living' history, but on the effective work of historians” (230)

Analyses to be Taken Up by Foucault
Critical Group
reversal-principle
exclusions
“process of rarefication, consolidation, and unification” (233)
Genealogical Group
effective formation of discourse (233)
“formation, at once scattered, discontinuous and regular” (233)
Will to Knowledge
Like will to truth
But more methodical
Exercises power over other forms of discourse
Historical division has lent its general form to our will to knowledge and has never stopped shifting
exercising its own power
concerned with classification, ordering, distribution

Internal Rules
Commentary
Logophobia
Apparent fear of the potential dangers of discourse

We need to cure ourselves of this Logophobia
1. "question our will to truth"
2. “restore to discourse its character as an event”
3. “abolish the sovereignty of the signifier” (229)
Foucault doesn’t want to search for the underlying meanings but wants to recognize discourse as regular series and distinct events.

He is recognizing permitting the introductions of notions of
chance, discontinuity,
and
materiality

into the roots of thought. (231)

These notions should allow us to link the history of systems of thought to the practical work of historians and are 3 directions that are to be followed in the work of theoretical elaboration.

Structuralism
At the end of the speech, Foucault lists off several philosophers.

He does so to align himself with Jean Hippolite, which sets him against Marx, Hegel, Kierkegaard, etc.
always fluctuating
primary texts and secondary texts – allows for new discourse AND finality
“limit[s] the hazards of discourse through the action of an identity taking the form of repetition and sameness” (222)
only role: explicitly state what has silently been articulated
averts the chance element of discourse
gives us the opportunity to say something other than the text itself, so long it is in some way finalized. (221)

author as the sign of the a work’s truth
in literary texts, the author has become more important
“limits this same chance element through the action of an identity whose form is that of individuality and the I” (222)
the individual as an author –the individual who sits down to write a text at the edge of which lurks, a possible
oeuvre
, resumes the function of the author.
author function – the interplay of differences – what he writes and does not write, what he sketches out, what he drops as simple mundane remarks

opposed to commentary and author
commentary because it is not trying to find meaning
author because who invented it is not important
not sum of all truths
an order or systematization of a group of related facts
can have true or false propositions, but they are not extreme
Examples: Mendel and Schleiden; Sokal Affair
religious, judicial, literary, or even scientific texts that tell the story of history; narratives
Kenneth Burke
Dr. Haynes
Dr. Howard on Foucault
Extended Version
Dr. Howard Extended-For Fans of The Matrix
Full transcript