Re: Materialism and Spirituality

In Article <Pine.3.89.9409170719.A2816-0100000@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
pgold@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:

> Foucault says that he is not examining experiences, realities, or events
> which are extra or non-discursive. This restriction of his work to the
> discursive is troubling to a materialist, who wants to claim that
> realities independent of the mind are what really matter and that those
> who consider experience or realities dependent on the mind are idealists.
> On this traditional view, Foucault is condemned as an idealist, as are


Yes, and this firm refusal on Foucault's part can make life devilishly
difficult, and make one wish from time to time that he had spoken a bit
more about these issues. For example: I am currently involved in an
e-mail "debate" (at our local institution) with a "hard" psychologist who
claims that poststructuralist, relativist barbarism is threatening
science. Science, he claims, has a privileged epistemological position,
and scientific reason is bringing us progressively closer to the "true"
structure or map of nature, as it really is. He keeps calling me a
relativist, I keep denying it.

The interesting part is that, in our respective missives, we end up
tossing Foucault commentators back and forth, who themselves are trying to
pin down F on these matters. My correspondent is using Gutting's book,
which I haven't read yet, and claims that Gutting sees strong reason
to believe that F would have seen "true" science as objective and
corresponding, in a representational way, to Nature's way in an "out
there", observer-independent way. (as an aside, I'd appreciate any
comments on this matter from anyone who has read Gutting).

I, in turn, throw Rabinow and Dreyfus back at him. They, of course, told F
that he needed to clarify this point (of course he didn't) but, in Beyond
Hermeneutics...they answer the question by a sort of analogy and explicit
comparison to Kuhn.

Since Kuhn won't buy intrinsic validity for the sciences, and since F won't
buy it for the normalizing technologies, and since their
reasoning is so similar for their separate domains, they can be treated as
identical in ontological and epistemological matters. They don't say
this exactly, but the conclusion seems obvious in pages 198-199 of the

I agree with R and D, but it also seems to me that in the discussion of
his purposes in the archaology, including the quotation posted recently by
Steve Meinking, F makes pretty clear that no discourse can desribe "mere
intersection of things and words." There is always that "more" , that
ordering of which he writes. And, that "more" is an excess, a spilling
out, over and beyond any such intersection...not a "more" in the sense of
simple articulation, projection or extrapolation.

Hence, (see para below before reacting) if there is a real world out
there, and it is really fashioned and "really" ordered as science describes
it, Foucault would have to treat this identity as the wildest, most
statistically improbable, coincidence in the universe. Or, am I missing
something? Worse, he would have to grant that, at least in principle,
reason and discourse can get at the true nature of things...since it did
in at least this one case, and who's to say that "progress" won't get
social work to that same place. In other words, Foucault HAS to be
denying that discourse and the out-there can ever,
in any domain, correspond one-to-one in the sense of knowing how things
really are.

I know that this last paragraph unbrackets the issue that
Foucault wished to bracket...But, in order to make my point, I needed to
do this.

Help on this very much needed and appreciated.


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