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Class 18 Notes

Page history last edited by Alan Liu 9 years ago

Preliminary Class Business



     I Am That I Am  I Think Therefore I am



Foucault's logical formulation of the tautology:

      We Are That We Are We Think Therefore We Are



Foucault's Foundational Assumptions


1. Man is collective "we"


  • Annales historiography in France
    • Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1976) Table of Contents [PDF] -- "longue durée"
    • (See Appendix for primary and secondary readings in Annales school of historiography)


  • Historical longue durée epochs in Foucault's work:


Medieval/Renaissance Age  The "Classic" Age  Modernity
                                                                                  (17th-18th centuries)                 (19th-century on)




2. Man is an epistemic discourse


Madness and Civilization, from end of Chapter II, "The Great Confinement" (p. 64):

A sensibility was born which had drawn a line and laid a,
cornerstone, and which chose—only to banish. The concrete space
of classical society reserved a neutral region, a blank page where the
real life of the city was suspended; here, order no longer freely
confronted disorder, reason no longer
tried to make its own way among all that might evade or seek to
deny it. Here reason reigned in the pure state, in a triumph arranged
for it in advance over a frenzied unreason.

Madness and Civilization, from beginning of Chapter III, "The Insane" (pp. 65-66):

But in each of these cities, we find an entire population of
madness as well. One-tenth of all the arrests made in Paris for the
Hopital General concern "the insane," "demented" men, individuals
of "wandering mind," and "persons who have become completely
mad." Between these and the others, no sign of a differentiation.
Judging from the registries, the same sensibility appears to collect
them, the same gestures to set them apart. We leave it to medical
archaeology to determine whether or not a man was sick, criminal, or
insane who was admitted to the hospital for "derangement of morals,"
or because he had "mistreated his wife" and tried several times to kill himself.

Yet it must not be forgotten that the "insane" had as such a
particular place in the world of confinement. Their status was not
merely that of prisoners. In the general sensibility to unreason, there
appeared to be a special modulation which concerned madness
proper, and was addressed to those called, without exact semantic
distinction, insane, alienated, deranged, demented, extravagant.

This particular form of sensibility traces the features proper to
madness in the world of unreason. It is primarily concerned with


From Preface to The Order of Things (p. xxii):

I am not concerned, therefore, to describe the progress of knowledge
towards an objectivity in which today’s science can finally be recognized;
what I am attempting to bring to light is the epistemological field,
the episteme in which knowledge, envisaged apart from all criteria having
reference to its rational value or to its objective forms, grounds its
positivity and thereby manifests a history which is not that of its growing
perfection, but rather that of its conditions of possibility; in this account,
what should appear are those configurations within the space of knowledge
which have given rise to the diverse forms of empirical science.
Such an enterprise is not so much a history, in the traditional meaning of
that word, as an ‘archaeology’.

Now, this archaeological inquiry has revealed two great discontinuities
in the episteme of Western culture: the first inaugurates the Classical age
(roughly half-way through the seventeenth century) and the second, at
the beginning of the nineteenth century, marks the beginning of the
modern age.





3. Man is the epistemic discourse of the "other"


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter IV, "Passion and Delirium" (p. 107):

Joining vision and blindness, image and judgment, hallucination
and language, sleep and waking, day and night, madness is
ultimately nothing, for it unites in them all that is negative. But the
paradox of this nothing is to manifest itself, to explode in signs, in
words, in gestures. Inextricable unity of order and disorder, of the
reasonable being of things and this nothingness of madness! For
madness, if it is nothing, can manifest itself only by departing from
itself, by assuming an appearance in the order of reason and thus
becoming the contrary of itself. Which illuminates the paradoxes of
the classical experience: madness is always absent, in a perpetual
retreat where it is inaccessible, without phenomenal or positive
character; and yet it is present and perfectly visible in the singular
evidence of the madman. Meaningless disorder as madness is, it
reveals, when we examine it, only ordered classifications, rigorous
mechanisms in soul and body, language articulated according to a
visible logic. All that madness can say of itself is merely reason,
though it is itself the negation of reason. In short, a rational hold
over madness is always possible and necessary, to the very degree
that madness is non-reason.

There is only one word which summarizes this experience,
Unreason: all that, for reason, is closest and most remote, emptiest
and most complete; all that presents itself to reason in familiar
structures—authorizing a knowledge, and then a science, which
seeks to be positive—and all that is constantly in retreat from reason,
in the inaccessible domain of nothingness.


Cf., Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (1966)


From Preface to The Order of Things (p. xxiv):

                                                         . . . The history of madness would be
the history of the Other -- of that which, for a given culture, is at once
interior and foreign, therefore to be excluded (so as to exorcize the
interior danger) but by being shut away (in order to reduce its otherness);
whereas the history of the order imposed on things would be the history
of the Same -- of that which, for a given culture, is both dispersed and
related, therefore to be distinguished by kinds and to be collected together
into identities.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter IV, "Passion and Delirium" (pp. 60-61):

An important phenomenon, this invention of a site of constraint,
where morality castigates by means of administrative enforcement.
For the first time, institutions of morality are established in which an
astonishing synthesis of moral obligation and civil law is effected.
The law of nations will no longer countenance the disorder of hearts.
To be sure, this is not the first time in European culture that moral
error, even in its most private form, has assumed the aspect of a
transgression against the written or unwritten laws of the
community. But in this great confinement of the classical age, the
essential thing—and the new event—is that men were confined in
cities of pure morality, where the law that should reign in all hearts
was to be applied without compromise, without concession, in the
rigorous forms of physical constraint.  Morality permitted itself to be
administered like trade or economy.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter IX, "The Birth of he Asylum" (p. 247):

We must therefore re-evaluate the meanings assigned to Tuke's
work: liberation of the insane, abolition of constraint, constitution of
a human milieu—these are only justifications. The real operations
were different.  In fact Tuke created an asylum where he substituted
for the free terror of madness the stifling anguish of responsibility;
fear no longer reigned on the other side of the prison gates, it now
raged under the seals of conscience.  Tuke now transferred the ageold
terrors in which the insane had been trapped to the very heart of
madness.  The asylum no longer punished the madman's guilt, it is
true; but it did more, it organized that guilt; it organized it for the
madman as a consciousness of himself. . . .


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter IX, "The Birth of the Asylum" (p. 250):

We see that at the Retreat the partial suppression of physical
constraint was part of a system whose essential element was the
constitution of a "self-restraint" in which the patient's freedom,
engaged by work and the observation of others, was ceaselessly
threatened by the recognition of guilt.




Foucault and Structuralism



Madness and Civilization, from Preface (p. xii):

Between these two unique and symmetrical events,
something happens whose ambiguity has left the
historians of medicine at a loss: blind repression in an
absolutist regime, according to some; but according to
others, the gradual discovery by science and
philanthropy of madness in its positive truth.  As a
matter of fact, beneath these reversible meanings, a
structure is forming which does not resolve the
ambiguity but determines it.  It is this structure which
accounts for the transition from the medieval and
humanist experience of madness to our own experience,
which confines insanity within mental illness.
In the Middle Ages and until the Renaissance, man's
dispute with madness was a dramatic debate in which
he confronted the secret powers of the world; the
experience of madness was clouded by images of the
Fall and the Will of God, of the Beast and the
Metamorphosis, and of all the marvelous secrets of
Knowledge.  In our era, the experience of madness
remains silent in the composure of a knowledge which,
knowing too much about madness, forgets it.  But from
one of these experiences to the other, the shift has
been made by a world without images, without positive
character, in a kind of silent transparency which
reveals—as mute institution, act without commentary,
immediate knowledge—a great motionless structure;
this structure is one of neither drama nor knowledge; it
is the point where history is immobilized in the tragic
category which both establishes and impugns it.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter I, "Stultifera Navis" (p. 7):

     Leprosy disappeared, the leper vanished, or almost, from memory;
these structures remained.  Often, in these same places, the formulas
of exclusion would be repeated, strangely similar two or three
centuries later. Poor vagabonds, criminals, and "deranged minds"
would take the part played by the leper, and we shall see what
salvation was expected from this exclusion, for them and for those
who excluded them as well.  With an altogether new meaning and in
a very different culture, the forms would remain—essentially that
major form of a rigorous division which is social exclusion but
spiritual reintegration.


From Forward to English Edition of The Order of Things (p. xiv):

This last point is a request to the English-speaking reader.  In France, certain half-witted 'commentators' persist in labelling me a 'structuralist'.  I have been unable to get it into their tiny minds that I have used none of the methods, concepts, or key terms that characterize structural analysis.

I should be grateful if a more serious public would free me from a connection that certainly does me honour, but that I have not deserved.  There may well be certain similarities between the works of the struc­turalists and my own work.  It would hardly behove me, of all people, to claim that my discourse is independent of conditions and rules of which I am very largely unaware, and which determine other work that is being done today.  But it is only too easy to avoid the trouble of analysing such work by giving it an admittedly impressive-sounding, but inaccurate, label.


From beginning of Preface to The Order of Things (p. xv):

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that
shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought
-- our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our
geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with
which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things,
and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our
age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes
a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are
divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame,
(d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in
the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a
very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water
pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment
of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing
that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another
system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of
thinking that.


From Preface to The Order of Things (p. xvii):

That passage from Borges kept me laughing a long time, though not
without a certain uneasiness that I found hard to shake off.  Perhaps because
there arose in its wake the suspicion that there is a worse kind of
disorder than that of the incongruous,. the linking together of things that
are inappropriate; I mean the disorder in which fragments of a large
number of possible orders glitter separately in the dimension, without law
or geometry, of the heteroclite. . . .


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter II, "The Great Confinement" (p. 45):

                                                                                       . . . To inhabit
the reaches long since abandoned by the lepers, they chose a group
that to our eyes is strangely mixed and confused.  But what is for us
merely an undifferentiated sensibility must have been, for those
living in the classical age, a clearly articulated perception.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter III, "The Insane" (pp. 68-69):

                                                                 . . . As late as 1815, if a report
presented in the House of Commons is to be believed, the hospital of
Bethlehem exhibited lunatics for a penny, every Sunday. Now the
annual revenue from these exhibitions amounted to almost four
hundred pounds; which suggests the astonishingly high number of
96,000 visits a year.4 In France, the excursion to Bicetre and the
display of the insane remained until the Revolution one of the
Sunday distractions for the Left Bank bourgeoisie. Mirabeau reports
in his Observations d'un voyageur anglais that the madmen at
Bicetre were shown "like curious animals, to the first simpleton
willing to pay a coin." One went to see the keeper display the
madmen the way the trainer at the Fair of Saint-Germain put the
monkeys through their tricks.5 Certain attendants were well known
for their ability to make the mad perform dances and acrobatics,
with a few flicks of the whip.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter I, "Stultifera Navis" (p. 7):

     Leprosy disappeared, the leper vanished, or almost, from memory;
these structures remained.  Often, in these same places, the formulas
of exclusion would be repeated, strangely similar two or three
centuries later. Poor vagabonds, criminals, and "deranged minds"
would take the part played by the leper, and we shall see what
salvation was expected from this exclusion, for them and for those
who excluded them as well.  With an altogether new meaning and in
a very different culture, the forms would remain—essentially that
major form of a rigorous division which is social exclusion but
spiritual reintegration.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter III, "The Insane" (p. 73):

                        . . . Yet this animal fear which accompanies, with all its
imaginary landscape, the perception of madness, no longer has the
same meaning it had two or three centuries earlier. . . .


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter III, "The Insane" (p. 82):

                                                                                    . . . Paradoxically,
this Christian consciousness of animality prepared the moment when
madness would be treated as a fact of nature; it would then be
quickly forgotten what this "nature" meant for classical thought: not
the always accessible domain of an objective analysis, but that
region in which there appears, for man, the always possible scandal
of a madness that is both his ultimate truth and the form of his


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter IX, "The Birth of the Asylum" (p. 274):

                                       . . . But very soon the meaning of this moral
practice escaped the physician, to the very extent that he enclosed
his knowledge in the norms of positivism: from the beginning of the
nineteenth century, the psychiatrist no longer quite knew what was
the nature of the power he had inherited from the great reformers,
and whose efficacity seemed so foreign to his idea of mental illness
and to the practice of all other doctors.



Foucault and the End of "Man"


From Preface to The Order of Things (p. xxiii):

                                           . . . Strangely enough, man - the study of whom is
supposed by the naive to be the oldest investigation since Socrates - is probably
no more than a kind of rift in the order of things, or, in any case, a
configuration whose outlines are determined by the new position he has
so recently taken up in the field of knowledge. Whence all the chimeras
of the new humanisms, all the facile solutions of an ‘anthropology’ understood
as a universal reflection on man, half-empirical, half-philosophical.
It is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to think that
man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new
wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that
knowledge has discovered a new form.


From Preface to The Order of Things (p. xxiv):

In attempting to uncover the deepest strata of Western culture, I am restoring
to our silent and apparently immobile soil its rifts, its instability, its
flaws; and it is the same ground that is once more stirring under our feet.


Madness and Civilization, from Chapter III, "The Insane" (p. 84):

                                               . . . More effectively than any other kind
of rationalism, better in any case than our positivism, classical
rationalism could watch out for and guard against the subterranean
danger of unreason, that threatening space of an absolute freedom.






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