Re: dream and existence

CD notes

In any event, there are some interesting comments,
>observations, and summarizations of that work and that period [in
>Foucault's life] in Jim Miller's The Passion of Michel Foucault. The main
>pages are pp.76-8, as well as 50,63,,66,,108, 193, 73.

I have to say I disagree rather strongly with some of Miller's
interpretations of the Binswanger piece. Miller seems to think Foucault had
some kind of death fixation - maybe- but death is also an important
(philosophical) problem worth discussing!

> What Foucault repudiates is the
>phenomenological approach which he uses, and thus the results or the way
>in which he 'interprets' them via the methodolgy he was using at the time.

I think actually it is rather interesting how Foucault in fact undermines
phenomenology in some sections and states explicitly that he is going
further than phenomenology would go. Personally I can see many of the
structures and ideas that are later in evidence in Foucault's work and
there is a strong return to some of the more poetic or 'spiritual' (for
want of a better word) ideas expressed in this introduction in his post
1982 work. Indeed, he commented in 1982 that he would be happy to reinstate
the 1st preface of _Histoire de la folie_. If Foucault in this introduction
sometimes uses existentialist and phenomenological jargon - existence,
anthropology, authenticity, etc - the structures are similar to his later
work. The whole piece is also an apologia for the analysis of philosophical
concepts via their appearance in everyday historical practices. (cf his
later comments on Nietzsche's influence on his work)

What I also find particularly interesting about the work is its tolerance
and championing of difference, of breaking down the reign of the Same and
leaving space for the Other. This approach means that his text hasn't dated
the way the writings of a number of other thinkers of the same period have.
For example, instead of the usual familiar line that 'science' has now done
away with dubious mystical ideas when it comes to the analysis of dreams,
Foucault allows the 'non scientific' ideas space for existence. By far the
most interesting feature of the piece for me is its insistence on the non
commensurability of the orders of words and things (images). In fact, I
think that is the whole point of the article.

>Miller provides an interesting contextualization of Foucault working in
>the mental health domain at the time as well. For instance Foucault was
>aware that the hospital he was associated with used electric shock therapy
>on the patients, and so he may have been witness to such treatments.

One can certainly see that context in this piece. Howver, I have decided
recently that I really enjoy reading Foucault's work on its own, far more
than situating it in its biographical context. I think Foucault had good
reasons for his constant insistence during his life on the irrelevance of

> What are your own
>interests in that area of Foucault's work?

I am a big fan of Foucault's early work - often one has to read it
intuitively rather than logically - it is a real challenge and really
stretches the boundaries of thought to take one to areas beyond thought.


Clare O'Farrell
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