Foucault & the dialectic

Here's an interesting quote on Foucault's relation to Hegel:

"A large part of my indebtedness is to Jean Hyppolite. I know that, for
many, his work is associated with that of Hegel, and that our age, whether
through logic or epistemology, whether though Marx or through Nietzsche, is
attempting to flee Hegel....But truly to escape Hegel involves an exact
appreciation of the price we have to pay to detach ourselves from him. It
assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Hegel, insidiously perhaps,
is close to us; it implies a knowledge, in that which permits us to think
against Hegel, of that which remains Hegelian. We have to determine the
extent to which our anti-Hegelianism is possibly one of his tricks directed
against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us."
(Discourse on Language,235)

Perhaps I'm being too simplistic but I don't think F's work is
anti-dialectical in the sense that that was what he sought from the outset.
Although he acknowledges his education as an "instruction" in the "great
philosophical monuments" of Hegelianism and phenomenology, and tried to move
away from this through Nietzsche, Bataille, Blanchot and Klossowski, is this
move really anti-dialectical in that he had, for instance, escaping Hegel in
mind? Or was it more that he wanted to find something "other" than the
traditional ways of proceeding which, for Foucault and his contemporaries,
had all acknowledged Hegelianism as sovereign? In other words, by not
claiming to be a philosopher in the traditional sense is he saying that his
real interest has nothing to do with the dialectic, neither for it nor
against it, but an altogther different approach whose only relation to the
dialectic is to refuse its sovereignty? If his remarks that Flannon quoted
from WIE are any indication, then Foucult would see his project as trying to
escape not Hegel nor the dialectic, but the "enlightenment blackmail", the
necessity of having to choose to be either for it or against it. So people
like Jameson or Habermas who accuse F of being irrational or whatever,
perhaps all they can really claim is that F refuses to play by the rules of
their treasured enlightenment. So a return to the dialectic is more like an
abandonment of Foucault rather than a refutation. What does that really have
to do with the implications of Foucault's books? And in that passage I
quoted above Foucault seems to be warning his contemporaries of their
anti-Hegelian move away from the dialectic as "possibly one of [Hegel's]
tricks directed against us" which could only lead back to the dialectic
(Jameson, Habermas, etc.) And finally he acknowledges the influence of
Hyppolite's reading of Hegel:

"...can one still philosophize where Hegel is no longer possible? Can any
philosophy continue to exist that is no longer Hegelian? Are the
non-Hegelian elements in our thought necessarily non-philosophical?...For
Hyppolite, the relationship with Hegel was the scene of an experiment, of a
confrontation in which it was never certain that philosophy would come out on
top. He never saw the Hegelian system as a reassuring universe; he saw in it
the field in which philosophy took the ultimate risk." (235-6)

Sean Hill


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