Re: Foucault, truth, and Rorty

OK Mr. Dolphin, a compelling and interesting post. Let me try to clarify
my position with regard to epistemology, though I'm no more "credentialed"
in traditional philosophy than you. Which is to say that I'm thinking out
loud (or silently on the keypad -- anyway, in process).

Mapping the limits to knowledge, hmm.: I don't think I'd put it that way.
Though even to say that is to stabilize "Foucault" over 30 years' worth
of work. I'm more likely to read MF as "testing" those limits, or
designing escapes from them.

I'd agree with you that the "Archeology" is the most seemingly
epistemological of MF's writings, so let's take that for a starter. In
what sense epistemological? Certainly it traces the dynamics of a
truth-impulse that will become more and more important for MF into the
first volume of the History of Sexuality. In that sense the Archeology
marks the Big Break as most have seen it for Foucault, and is at
cross-purposes with itself. No wonder Foucault practically disowned it.
But even it doesn't seem to me epistemological in the sense (in which most
have presented it) of sorting out better and worse approaches to the
object which is assumed to be there, i.e., truth. That is, the primary
epistemological question seems to me as follows: how do we know things?
Now, most of the time that gets asked in a qualitative way, as "how should
we best know things." Or at least that's a kind of imperative that hovers
in the background. Now, the archeology seems to be written around a
slightly different sort of question: How can I avoid the traps into which
the history of ideas falls? This seems to m different from the kind of
discourse which establishes an epistemologically grounded "position," and
puts into perspective Foucault's famous anti-autobiographical statement at
the end of the introduction. (Sorry, I don't have the text at the
terminal right now.)

Yes, "to speak . . . is to simultaneously position and be positioned, to
orient oneself within a game of language, a field of play, maybe even an
ontological clearing, wherein rules of truth & proof are at once both
given and negotiable." Except that there's more than one game being
played. To describe the history of the philosophical game may not be to
play philosopher so much as it is to play historian.

I don't know if this message makes any sense. I'm tired and avoiding more
pressing work. At some point I'll try to put those concerns in the
context of my "real" work for the list. In the meantime, I hope there's
something here that holds.

David Kellogg No ideas but in things.
University Writing Program --William Carlos Williams
Duke University
Durham, NC 27708 No ideas in things, either.
kellogg@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx --John Ashbery


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