Re: Foucault and Hegel

>The relation between Hegel and Foucault is extremely complex, and I would
>resist the temptation to simplify the matter by dubbing Hegel a modern and
>then showing how Foucault operates against Hegel's system. There are, I
>believe, two very important points of contact between Hegel's philosophy and
>the work of Foucault. The first is language, as Hegel, at least in the
>_Phenomenology_, asserts that language is _not_ the external manifestation of
>an interior meaning or thought, and that language "tells the truth" in spite
>of whatever our conscious intentions and programs might be. This regards his
>ingenious play on the word _meinen_, which in its verbal form is to intend,
>to mean, and also functions as a possessive. For Hegel, _Sprache_ is not
>simply the externalization of thought, but thought itself, and this is why he
>says that thought breaks out entirely in it, and that it is no longer what it
>is insofar as it is given over to a materiality and concrete statement that
>is subject to a reading which does not construct simply another meaning or
>thought, but makes it into something Other ("zu einem Andern macht.") In the
>_Encyclopedia_, Hegel does seem to regress a bit and slide back into a rather
>semiotic ( rather than semiological) view.

I agree that it is a mistake to make Hegel into Foucault's whipping
boy, with Foucault "beyond" Hegel; then again one may ask, as I am trying to
do in my own work, How did Foucault see Hegel. Hegel and how Hegel
functioned within the economy of Foucault's thinking are, of course, not
necessarily the same thing. IF Hegel was a whipping boy for Foucault, one
may by reading Hegel find that who is whipping who becomes ambiguous.
I also agree that their respective philosophies of language are a
decisive point of confrontation. However, I'm not sure I correctly
understand or agree with the above characterization of Hegel's philosophy of
language. True, for Hegel language is not the expernal manifestation of
something that actually exists prior to it; such would be the classical way
of thinking about it -- Descartes, Arnauld, etc. However, Hegel does say
that "language is the existence [Dasein] of spirit" (PdG, 458), that
"language is the pure existence [Existenz] of spirit; it is a thing,
perceived returned into itself" (*Gesch d. Phil. III, 314). Precisely
because language (words) are the form of spirit's appearing and actuality --
before speaking (viz. the first moment of the PdG) spirit is not actual --
Hegel spends great efforts to show how language *must not remain* the
reified crypt of spirit, but must be exhumed from this potentially lifeless
state. Hence he rather elaborate and sometimes poetic exposition of the
"spekulativer Satz" (See PdG 52-3). To be schematic, the problem is: given
that the proposition (language) is the necessary actualization of spirit,
how is spirit not to "die" there; how is this objective presentation of
spirit to be sublated. In order that spirit to escape its reification,
Hegel's answer to this quandry seem to be the "speculative
proposition/leap/statement," a 'linguistic form' that necessarily takes the
form of a system -- a system of science. If systematicity is the way that
Hegel preserves the indicative character of language yet escapes the
reification of the 'speaking subject' into a substance, one may be in a
position to ask some interesting questions of Foucault. For example, If
Foucault's concept of language preserves an indicative character, as at
least his early works (esp. AS and MC) would lead one to think, how does
Foucault escape the reifying tendency of such a conception of language.
What is the significance, in what repsects and why is systematicity
indispensible to Foucault's thought and, to the extent that Foucault is a
"philosopher of language," what is the relation between his conception of
language and systematicity? These questions, which I believe are
appropriate, in some respects seem to bring Foucault into greater proximity
(which is not the same thing as agreement!) with Hegel than they do to, say,
Nietzsche. If anyone has 'answers' to these questions, send them to me quickly!

>The second point, which has not been sufficiently fleshed out in scholarship,
>is the relation of Foucault to Hegel's _Philosophy of Right_. It seems to me
>that especially with regard to Hegel's critique of Kant, where the issue of
>effects, consequences, and contexts disrupts the singularity and the clarity
>of the individual will, and the use of language here (particularly when Hegel
>repeatedly calls for the need of _bersetzen_ as a mode of moving between
>discourses of right, culture, etc.) -- he is doing something that is akin to
>Foucault's displacement of the individual's conscious will as the grounding
>instance of ethical life.
I never thought of this; sounds interesting, would like to hear/think about
it more.


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