Re: politics and ethics

On Sun, 28 Jan 1996 lemke@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> But there is something more at stake (in fact I posed the question
> you posed when I started my thesis on Foucault and I saw that I
> couldn't go on this way): There is a very interesing remark of F. in
> the "Politics and Ethics" interview, where he rejects that politics
> can be deduced from a certain theory, he speaks of a very "weak
> analytical" link I guess. What he wanted to point on is that -to
> certian limits- that theory can be used for very different political
> end, which means that we have to be responsible for the truths we
> the necessity of an ethics. What F. always rejected was
> the idea that theory in itself can give a justification for fighting
> or political struggle ... and that you have to wait for the right
> theory to fight. That's why he speaks of politics as an ethics and of
> an ethos. To my mind this means: We fight because we don't accept
> certain things, but there can be no universal reasoning everybody has
> to accept that forces us to do this thing and not another.
> Maybe I am wrong but that's the way I interpret his texts ...
> Thomas
I think this is absolutely right: indeed part of Foucault's "theory"
(power/knowledged, etc.) has as its implications that the truth, or a
demystified view of reality, will not set one free. In this way Foucault
seems to vere close to the pragmatists (this claim always brings
protests, but I feel the need to bring it up at least once a year).
Rorty cites Yeats' line, "hold reality and justice in a single vision" as
the dream of traditional philosophy. Both he and Foucault reject this
dream as a delusion, a Platonic or Hegelian hangover.

Thomas's response may be the best one yet to one of the innaugural
questions of this thread: why the turn toward ethics. Without the Truth
(as a link between reality and justice), one needs (if one is to act)
something like an ethos (situated, perhaps, half way between the dream of
Truth and "mere" opinion or empathetic inclination).

Erik D. Lindberg
Dept. of English and Comparative Lit.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53211
email: edl@xxxxxxxxxxx


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