From: "Joe Cronin" <croninj@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 96 13:54:43 EST
I agree with just about all of your comments. I can see
that I haven't adequately spelled out the important features
of a descriptive sociology, whcih is really all I've tried
to get at from teh beginning. I don't doubt that Hume
himself engages in a roundabout form of metaphysics - fro
example, "sense impressions" have a certain "force" or
"livliness;" the sets of assocaitions are held strongly,
weakly, etc. However, we can get at basic scientific
prospostions that defy the evidence of our senses, in a
Humean (naturalist) scheme only through reflection -
mediated by further descriptions. Theories themselves are
not descriptive - they are explanatory. The Copernican
theory held (and soem elements of it continue to hold) sway
becasue it explained, better thatn the Ptolemaic system,
many of the observations Tco Brahe and others made that were
"anomalistic". The basic premise of Hume's empiricism is
not that all we have is the evidecne of our senses, but that
the best explanations we can give of any natural event rest
ultimately on our experiences and our beliefs, which are
deeply formed. In principle, these are revisable. the
porposition that the sum of angles of a triangle equal 180
degrees is not revisable - because it is generated from
other propsositions; the proposition that the earth revolves
around the sun doesn't follow by definition. it rests,
ultimately, on a "theoretical observation" - and the theory
itself is measured by its explanatory power - its ability to
consistently explain sets of descriptions. "Reflection" is
a matter of judging mostly theoretical claims - in the light
of what we have observed, and on the basis of what we've
learned and experienced in the past.
I think your last comment is one that I most agree with;
Focuault did not entirely abandon the archeological
methodoly in htat later writings, he refined it, partly by
taking on the big metaphysical questions pertaining to
historical change. But I would say he is more of an
empiricist in that later writings, and more of an
"analytical" philospher in the earlier writings (except for
Madness and Civ., and to extent, The Birth of the Clinic).
He was interested in the sets of statements which formed
certain rules of discourse (in OT and AK). He became
intereted in decribing both the (scientific) statemetns
whcih formed that groundrules, and in describing the actual
practices whcih took place in reference to those statements.
There is clearly soem relatedness he sees between certain
theories and socail practices, and there is, partly, a
causakl connection to be made between for instance what
Bentham said and what nineteenth century penologists did.
when Foucault (after D&P mainly) speaks of the colonization
of techniques, rationalities, and "modes of
subjectivization," he clearly has some causal story in mind
- otherwise he caould draw no connection between the priest
and the psychoanalyst. Rarely, however, does he offer sucha
causla staory as you find, for instance, in Hempel, where
the drought "caused" the settlers in Oklahoma to move West.
I think this is partly due to Focualt's attempt to avoid
this stronger notion of causation. A Focuaultdian acoutn
would have the settlers moving West, but considering a move
east; the drought would be one thng they discuss, and the
promise of Gold, the stories written in newspapers, etc.
would also have them taklking about California. Perhaps
they se themselves as frontiersmen, and see Claifornia as a
enw kind of frontier, etc. etc. In other words, he does'nt
go in for the notion that a clear causal sequence can be
established - there are a host of other factors weighing in,
whcih can only be hinted at through a barrage of
descriptions - of statemtents, practices, analogies darwn by
this theorist here with statemetns from another threorist
(or practicitoner) there, and so on.
Of course, ther's a lot more to the story. Focualt also
sets certain rationalites, techniques, stories, therories,
or what have you against the background of history. the
"confessional" is a form which is preserved through a numebr
of quite distinctive changes; its functions don't even
change that much. In whatever settign "the confessioanl"
operates, it functions to "divide" the subject into
analysable units;to make him/her speak; and to force him/her
to confront soem kind of deep "reality".
My last comment here is about soemthign different, and
somethign I think will offend some people on this channel -
it seems to me that Focuault's "metaphysics" - whcih is
something we have been discussing, rests upon some strange
Merleau-Pontyesque notion og hte body as saome kind of
substance. Soem of the problems with empiricism brought out
in this discussion apply here. What is Focualt's
materialism all about? What kind of "site" is the body? At
the very least, it in soem ways is the passive receptor of
signs and codes - much like hte "mind" is a passive recpetor
of imopressions. Anyone care to elaborate on this?
Thanks, Joe C.