Re: A KickOff...

John Ransom wrote:
> There is a valuable echo of Foucault's point and procedure in Nietzsche's
> _Genealogy of Morals._ In the Preface, Nietzsche complains that "we are
> unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge." Again, the "we" is an
> intellectual "we" that is having trouble freeing itself from a set of
> crippling background assumptions. In the rest of the Preface, especially
> section 5, Nietzsche presents the case for the view that we need to ask
> not, "What is moral?" but rather, "What is value of morality?" Foucault
> asks the same thing on pp. 8-9: The real question, he says there, is
> Not, then, 'why are we repressed,' but rather why, with so much
> passion, do we say that we are repressed? What led us to say that
> sex is something we hide? (paraphrase)
> Like Nietzsche, Foucault wants, in part, to do a kind of excavation
> procedure. Which is not to say there aren't differences in what they're up
> to!

first, a comment off the bat. I don't know how you people get your
responses out so quickly! I had 15 messages in my mailbox when I
logged on, and I had checked about 3 hours ago! The distributive
powers of the Internet boggle the mind...

having gotten that off my chest, I think that Mr. Ransom's comments,
as usual, get right to the heart of the issue. Indeed, I find that
he stole my thunder, so to speak, as he quotes almost exactly the
passage I was going to make use of. So let me go elsewhere...

"The statement of opposition and the form of the sermon refer back
to one another; they are mutually reinforcing. To say that sex is
not repressed, or rather that the relationship between sex and power
is not characterized by repression, is to risk falling into a sterile
paradox. It not only runs counter to a well-accepted argument, it
goes against the whole economy and all the discursive 'interests'
that underly this argument." (8)

It seems that this passage, in conjunction with that given above by
Mr. Ransom, gets at the crux of this Introduction of sorts.
Foucault, arguably the most Nietzschean of contemporary French
thinkers, shows his true colors with this strategic advance. The
true question is not "are we repressed," but instead, "why do we
believe that we are repressed?" What are the power structures in
place that create this belief? And how is it that sex became
commodified, turned into a discursive practice rather than a physical

Of course, Foucault gets to these in his own sweet time. But there
is a tantalizing morsal to be found on pages 12 and 13. "...the
techniques of power exercised have not obeyed a principle of rigorous
selection, but rather one of the dissemenation and implantation of
polymorphous sexualities; and that the will to knowledge has not come
to a halt in the face of a taboo that must not be lifted, but has
persisted in constituting -- despite many mistakes, of course -- a
science of sexuality."

What is significant in this passage is the implication that sexuality
is a construct, or, more to the point, "before" all of this (and here
I'm walking on shaky ground) there was not any sexuality as we would
recognize it, but simply sex. Foucault, I think, is wary of
valorizing any sexuality to the exclusion of any other -- including
his own homosexuality. From reading a number of interviews, I think
his use of the term "polymorphous sexualities" is criticial:
Foucault on sex is all about experimentation, a plane of immanence as
opposed to a rigid, codified method. The rest of the book should
prove most interesting.

john hartmann

John Hartmann
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, daruber muss man schweigen.
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein

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