Michel Foucault


The Order of Things





1.      Origin of investigation in a shock

a.             Read reference to "a certain Chinese encyclopedia"

b.            Taxonomy revealed another system of thought

1)           Did though include categories

2)           "The common ground on which such meetings are possible has itself been destroyed"


2.      Foucault's Method

a.             Looks for table or tabula "upon which, since the beginning of time, language has intersected space"

b.            Example of aphasiacs's attempts to arrange pieces of colored wool

1)           "The sick mind continues to infinity, creating groups then dispersing them again"

2)      Humans for Foucault seem to do likewise but with collective rather than individual neurosis (to use Freud's terms) because it seems subjective fields of identity are not adequate to objective inherence of diversity

c.             Questions our certainty that "a cat and a dog resemble each other less than two greyhounds do"

1)           No complete certainty concerning validity of classification

2)       Classification presupposes a "table" that establishes a "grid of identities, similitudes, analogies"

a)          Coherence "is neither determined by an a priori and necessary concatenation, nor imposed on us by immediately perceptible contents"

b)           "There is nothing more tentative, nothing more empirical (superficially, at least) than the process of establishing an order among things"

3)           Prior criteria necessary to articulate similitude and distinction

a)            These codes establish the empirical orders within which people operate

b)           Philosophy and science explain why order exists in general

c)  Between operational empirical orders and general philosophico-scientific explanations lies culture which deviates

(1)     "It is on the basis of this newly perceived order that codes of language, perception, and practice are criticized and rendered partially invalid"

(2)        "This middle region, then, É can be posited as the most fundamental of all"

(a)         Seems to be pre-reflective

(b)        Phenomenology, when not still within natural attitude, describes such pre-reflective experience


3.      Character of analysis

a.             Seeks to analyze experience of meddle region

1)           Not history of ideas or science

2)           "Rediscover on what basis knowledge and theory become possible"

a)            Historical a priori

b)           Second marks beginning of modern age (at beginning of 19th century)

3)           More archaeological then historical

b.            Archaeology reveals two great discontinuities in the epiteme of Western culture

1)           Emergence of discontinuities

a)      First inaugurates Classical age (half-way through 17th century

b)      Second marks beginning of modern age (at beginning of 19th century)

2)           Implications

a)            "The order on the basis of which we think today does not have the same mode of being as that of the Classical thinkers"

b)        "All this quasi-continuity on the level of ideas and themes is doubtless only a surface appearance"

c)            Reason did not progress; rather, mode of ordering altered profoundly

3)    Archaeology "defines systems of simultaneity, as well as the series of mutations necessary and sufficient to circumscribe the threshold of a new positivity"

a)      These shifts made the human subject a field of knowledge

b)     The human subject as a field of knowledge "is probably no more than a kind of rift in the order of things"

(1)    Foucault views this discovery as a relief

(2)   Relief from problems so engendered will come when this "recent invention" disappears with the discovery of a new form of knowledge

c.             Whereas Madness and Civilization investigated the history of the Other, The Order of Things investigates the history of the Same, i.e., the history of resemblance



Chapter 9

Man and His Doubles


1.      The return of language

a.             Threshold between Classicism and Modernism

1)           When words ceased to intersect with representations

2)           From 19th century to now, language has existed "only in a dispersed way"

a)     Philologist:  words as object formed and deposited by history

b)           Formalist:  words as enclosing universally valid forms

c)            Hermeneuticist:  words as text with hidden meaning

d)           Novelist:  words as written for their own sake

3)           Unification probably irrecoverable for the multiplicity of modes of being of language in modern episteme

a)          "It is for this reason, perhaps, that philosophical reflection for so long held itself aloof from language"

b)           Philosophy turns to life (organicism) and to labor (econonomism)

c)        Language would not have been philosophical focus until 2th century, except for Nietzsche the philologist and philosopher

b.            Directions vis-a-vis language

1)           Nietzsche:  who is speaking--self and other

2)           Mallarme:  what is speaking--the word itself

c.    As a result of detaching discourse from representation, the being of language became fragmented

1)           Nietzsche killed the human subject and God

2)           Outcome of disappearance of Discourse not now certain


2.      The Place of the King

a.             Classical thought

1)      "Personage for whom representation exists" "is never to be found on the table"

2)      "Before the end of the eighteenth century man did not exist"

a)      Less than 200 years ago

b)      Grown old quickly

3)           "There was no epistemological consciousness of man as such"

b.            Language and episteme

1)      Pre-Classical:  language as marks had to be deciphered

2)   Classical:  language exists "only in order to be transparent," i.e., as "a colourless network on the basis of which beings manifest themselves and representations are ordered"

3)           Modern:  language as instrument to be mastered


[3.     The Analytic of Finitude]


4.            The Empirical and the Transcendental

a.             Person as empirico-transcendental doublet

1)        "A being such that knowledge will be attained in him of what renders all knowledge possible"

2)           Object of knowledge and subject that knows

b.            Foucault's apparent view that modern episteme is a bifurcation of Kant

1)           Bifurcation

a)            Analyses that function as "a sort of transcendental aesthetic"

(1)        Focus upon anatomo-physiological conditions

(2)        "There was a nature of human knowledge"

b)           Analyses that function as "a sort of transcendental dialectic"

(1)        Focus on socio-economic relations between persons

(2)        "There was a history if human knowledge"

2)           Status

a)      Doublet, because "they apparently do not need one another in any way"

b)    Autonomous, because both can dispense with a "theory of the subject" and "claim to be able to rest entirely on themselves"

c.             Foucault links positivism (empirical) and eschatology (critical)

1)           Problem of "true discourse"

a)        If founded on empirical truth that is generated in nature and history, it is positivist

(1)        Truth of object determines truth of discourse

(2)        True discourse, thus, traces and describes empirical processes

b)           If anticipates the truth whose nature and history it defines, it is eschatological

(1)        Truth of discourse determines truth of object

(2)        True discourse, thus, precedes and constitutes empirical processes

2)           Interpenetration of positivism and eschatology

a)            Comte and Marx as central examples

(1)        Eschatology:  "objective truth proceeds from human discourse"

(2)        Positivism:  truth of discourse defined on basis of truth of object

b)           "Archaeologically indissociable"

(1)      "A discourse attempting to be both empirical and critical cannot but be both positivist and eschatological"

(2)        "Man appears within it as a truth both reduced and promised"

d.            Implication of interpenetration of positivism and eschatology

1)           Search

a)      Search for a discourse that is neither reduction nor promise

b)      Search for discourse that separates "the empirical and the transcendental, while being directed at both"

2)           Locus in analysis of actual experience

a)      "Radical contestation of positivism and eschatology"

b)     Episteme lead to rapprochement of positivistic and eschatological type (especially Marxism) with analysis experience (especially phenomenology)


5.      The "Cogito" and the Unthought

a.    Episteme rejects reduction to transparent cogito or to objectivity that cannot lead to self-consciousness

b.            Problem of life that exceeds immediate experience

c.             ÒFourfold displacement in relation to the Kantian position

1)             From truth to being

2)             From nature to person

3)             From possibility of understanding ot possibility of misunderstanding

4)    From "unaccountable nature of philosophical theories as opposed to science" to "resumption in a clear philosophical awareness of that whole realm of unaccounted-for experiences in which man does not recognize himself"

d.            Transformation of Cartesian cogito

1)             The non-though behind thought (i.e., the unconscious) given stress

2)           Parallels in language, labor, and life

a)      Language used by thought entails sedimentations never actualized by thought

b)           Labor leads to products which before and after production elude the laborer

c)            Life involves temporality that envelops the living and prescribes its death

e.             Two consequences

1)           Negative one

a)            Phenomenology as union of Cartesian cogito and Kantian transcendental

b)      "Husserl has revived the deepest vocation of the Western ratio, bending it back upon itself in a reflection which is a radicalization of pudre philosophy and a basis for the possibility of its own history"

c)   Phenomenology not so much a resumption of old rational goal as acknowledgement of the great hiatus in modern episteme

(1)        Phenomenology begins as reduction to cogito

(2)        Phenomenology moves toward question of ontology

(3)        Transcendental phenomenology resolves itself into empirical description of actual experience and "into an ontology of the unthought that automatically short-circuits the possibility of the 'I think'"

2)           Positive one

a)      Relation of persons to the unthought

b)      Possible "for an objective form of thought to investigate man in his entirety"

c)            Philosophical thematization

(1)        Hegel:  An sich

(2)        Schopenhauer:  Unbewusste

(3)        Marx:  alienation [Entfremdung]

(4)        Husserl:  sedimented

d)         Status of the double

(1)        Primary ground for recollection

(2)        Philosophy attempts to bring the double as close to thought as possible, i.e., think the in-itself at the level of the for-itself


f.              Two ethical possibilities

1)             Old one of Stoicism or Epicureanism "was asrticulated upon the order of the world"

2)             Modern one formulates no morality (not natural or human order)

a)      Thought no longer theoretical

b)      Primacy of action seen by Hegel, Marx, and Freud



Chapter 10

The  Human Sciences


6.      In Conclusion

a.        "Man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge"

b.          "Man is an invention of recent date.  And one perhaps nearing its end."