Those who are interested in the intersection of Foucault and the subject
of epistemology should possibly take a look at Linda Alcoff's "Foucault
As Epistemologist", if they haven't already done so. The Alcoff article
appears in _The Philosophical Forum_, Volume XXV, No. 2, Winter 1993. In
the piece Alcoff argues, from analytic categories, that Foucault's work
is epistemological and highly relevant to epistemology. More
specifically, Alcoff claims that Foucault is a "coherentist" and
"externalist" (to throw some anal-ytic terms at you). In order to fit
Foucault into these categories, Alcoff spends a great deal of time
expanding the conceptual fittings and meanings of coherentism. To
support her arguments and claims she draws primarily from _The
Archaeology Of Knowledge_. In AK Alcoff finds a vast array of related
elements and concepts; such as the discursive formation, to give her claims
some legitimacy.

As a coherentist epistemology Alcoff thinks that Foucault contributes to
epistemology in general in the following three ways:

"(1) his account makes possible a strategy whereby the
truth-conduciveness of coherence as a criterion of knowledge can
be established; (2) he points the way out of the impasse between
conceptualizing knowledge as either science or ideology and
begins to formulate a new and better articulation of the
relationship between politics and knowledge; (3) and he provides a much
richer and more variegated concept of belief systems and
coherence relations which strengthens the usefulness and
plausibility of coherentist accounts of knowledge." - p. 111

In addition to the above, Alcoff claims that Foucault's _oeuvre_ is
generally guided by the same interests and issues that have predominately
been evident in epistemology as a historical practice.

"(1) it seeks a general understanding of knowledge, belief,
justification, truth and other epistemic terms, either through
conceptual analysis or through reflecting on how they are used in
practice; (2) it attempts to understand what it is to know something,
i.e. what is the difference between knowing and having a true belief;
(3) it tries to determine what the limits of human knowledge are..."
- p. 114

Alcoff correctly states that Foucault is not interested in a fourth issue
which is providing a justificatory explanation for how we come to know
something. This issue is, of course, largely tied up with repudiations
of skepticism which Foucault definitely thinks are unnecessary and,
sometimes, irrelevant. To make her argument on this issue Alcoff delves into
a full selection of Foucault's texts and interviews.

Yours in discourse,

Steven Meinking


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