Selection from DL

The following is an excerpt from "The Discourse On Language" as it
appears in the appendix of _The Archeaology Of Knowledge_ by Foucault,
pgs. 218-19:

"Certainly, as a proposition, the division between true and false is
neither arbitrary, nor modifiable, nor institutional, nor violent.
Putting the question in different terms, however - asking what has been,
what still is, throughout our discourse, this will to truth which has
survived throughout so many centuries of our history; or if we ask what
is, in its very general form, the kind of division governing our will to
knowledge - then we may well discern something like a system of exclusion
(historical, modifiable, institutionally constraining) in the process of

It is, undoubtedly, a historically constituted division. For, even with
the sixth century Greek poets, true discourse - in the meaningful sense -
inspiring respect and terror, to which all were obliged to submit,
because it held sway over all and was pronounced by men who spoke as of
right, according to ritual, meted out justice and attributed to each his
rightful share; it prophesied the future, not merely announcing what was
going to occur, but contributing to its actual event, carrying men along
with it and thus weaving itself into the fabric of fate. And yet, a
century later, the highest truth no longer resided in what discourse
_was_, nor in what it _did_: it lay in what was _said_. The day dawned
when truth moved over from the ritualised act - potent and just - of
enunciation to settle on what was enunciated itself: its meaning, its
form, its object and its relation to what it referred to. A division
emerged between Hesiod and Plato, separating true discourse from false;
it was a new division for, henceforth, true discourse was no longer
considered precious and desirable, since it had ceased to be discourse
linked to the exercise of power. And so the Sophists were routed.

This historical division has doubtless lent its general form to our will
to knowledge. Yet it has never ceased shifting: the great mutations of
science may well sometimes be seen to flow from some discovery, but they
may equally be viewed as the appearance of new forms of the will to
truth. In the nineteenth century there was undoubtedly a will to truth
having nothing to do, in terms of the forms examined, of the fields to
which it addressed itself, nor to techniques upon which it was based,
with the will to knowledge which characterised classical culture. Going
back a little in time, to the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries - and particularly in England - a will to knowledge emerged
which, anticipating its present content, sketched out a schema of
possible, observable, measurable and classifiable objects; a will to
knowledge which imposed upon the knowing subject - in some ways taking
precedence over all experience - a certain positin, a certain viewpoint,
and a certain function (look rather than read, verify rather than
comment), a will to konwledge which prescribed (and, more generally
speaking, all instruments determined) the technological level at which
knowledge could be employed in order to be verifiable and useful
(navigation, mining, pharmacopoeia). Everything seems to have occurred
as though, from the time of the great Platonic division onwards, the will
to truth had its own history, which is not at all that of the
constraining truths: the history of a range of subjects to be learned,
the history of the functions of the knowing subject, the history of
material, technical and instrumental investment in knowledge.

But this will to truth, like the other systems of exclusion, relies on
institutional support: it is both reinforced and accompanied by whole
strata of practices such as pedagogy - naturally - the book-system,
publishing, libraries, such as the learned societies of the past, and
laboratories today. But it is probably even more profoundly accompanied
by the manner in which knowledge is employed in a society, the way in
which it is exploited, divided and, in some ways, attributed. It is
worth recalling at this point, if only symbolically, the old Greek adage,
that arithmetic should be taught in democracies, for it teaches relations
of equality, but that geometry alone should be reserved for oligarchies,
as it demonstrates the proportions within inequality.

Finally, I believe that this will to knowledge, thus reliant upon
institutional support and distribution, tends to exercise a sort of
pressure, a power of constraint upon other forms of discourse - I am
speaking of our own society. I am thinking of the way Western literature
has, for centuries, sought to base itself in nature, in the plausible,
upon sincerity and science - in short, upon true discourse. I am
thinking, too, of the way economic practices, codified into precepts and
recipes - as morality, too - have sought, since the eighteenth century,
to found themselves, to rationalise and justify their currency, in a
theory of wealth and production; I am thinking, again, of the manner in
which such prescriptive ensembles as the Penal Code have sought their
bases or justifications. For example, the Penal Code started out as a
theory of Right; then, from the time of the nineteenth century,
people looked for its validation in sociological, psychological, medical
and psychiatric knowledge. It is as though the very words of the law had
no authority in our soceity, except insofar as they are derived from true
discourse. Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse -
prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth - I have
spoken at greatest length concerning the third. With good reason: for
centuries, the former have continually tended toward the latter; because
this last has, gradually, been attempting to assimilate the others in
order both to modify them and to provide them with a firm foundation.
Because, if the two former are continually growing more fragile and less
certain to the extent that they are now invaded by the will to truth, the
latter, in contrast, daily grows in strength, in depth and implacability.

And yet we speak of it least. As though the will to truth and its
vicissitudes were masked by truth itself and its necessary unfolding.
The reason is perhaps this: if, since the time of the Greeks, true
discourse no longer responds to desire or to that which exercises power
in the will to truth, in the will to speak out in true discourse, what,
then, is at work, if not desire and power? True discourse, liberated by
the nature of its form from desire and power, is incapable of recognising
the will to truth which pervades it; and the will to truth, having
imposed itself upon us for so long, is such that the truth it seeks to
reveal cannot fail to mask it."


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