Good old time

Gregory A. Coolidge wrote

"I too am a recovering post-structurlait who is coming
to grips with the truth that we are deeply paradoxical and problematic
humanists, who believe that human beings are deserving of dignity and
freedom, yet who are unwilling, for theoretical reasons, to define the
humanness which demands such dignity and which secures such freedom."

I am fascinated by the bravery of this statement, which does not point only
toward an autobiographical reflection but also reveals the deep differences
existing between french intellectual debate in the 60-70 's and the
present)day US philosophical trends.
At Foucault time, we did not have this kind of "theoretical" questions. We
had first the catholic philosophers who were studying the humanism and
anti-humanism of the Renaissance and modern period.( see Henri Gouhier
works, and all the thomist Maritain schools ). The heideggerian tried also
to define the word after the heideggerian answer to Jean Beaufret (Letters
on humanism ) and the marxists repeated all day long that it was not the
conscience that determines the -social-being of man ( as the "bourgeois"
christian humanists thought ), but the being that determined the
Thus saying " structure vs conscience " was synonym for us "marxists vs
catholic scholars".( I should say that Levi Strauss anthropological Essays
were an exception )
When Foucault came in the begining of the sixties, it was like a
refreashing third solution to this rigid and scholastic discussions. We
welcomed the disparition of subjectivity by our new Zarathoustra, without
raising the question of man's dignity. We did not see a paradox, I would
say a contradiction in accepting a conscience made understandable by
structure and sub-something and our political demand for Man's (or man's? )
dignity. We were maybe too occupied in disolving our immediate
philosophical past. One task at a time. So I guess this is the time to
think about the question and moreover to examine if it is or not a
However, as I said, we were caught between Catholic and marxist scholars,(
I would say between latin and german, I did not know english at that time )
and it seems to me that your US philosophical background, the influence of
these posstructuralist feminist ( a specie amost unknown in Paris )
considerably changes the nature of the ethical question. Foucault knew
perfectly well the catholic reference, the mentor of his Doctorate in 1961
was H.Gouhier, and he knew perfectly the hegelian-marxist school, ten years
before he was a member of the french communist Party. I know that it does
not change the nature of the question, but we have to realize that Foucault
couldnot sublate his own time and problematics. Hic Rhodus, hic saltus.

Best Regards.


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