Re: [Foucault-L] RE?: Translation of ?nonc? to English

(I'm an amateur, not an academic. My concerns are not typical for the
list and my expression, though I try, would not pass customary "quality
checks" for academic work, I'm sure. My comment here
may well have an easy "you miss the point" kind of reply
but it is an honest question, at least.)

Poulson, in the bottom-quoted stuff below, gives an example
of what weirds me out and Mograin just takes it right up:
He introduces the noun phrase "the archeologist". That's an
ontological concept of deep consequence and I don't think it
is found anywhere in Foucault (but, again: amateur here).

On translation questions like this, a little bit of chat about
linguistic context would seem an aid but... after a bit...

Isn't it possible that Foucault wasn't all that concerned with
being *that* precise? There's no "there" there to extract a
perfect meaning from? No ontological framework that is
presumed in and permeates his prose that we can rediscover
by debating close readings?

In discourse you have a bunch of "surface forms" which
could be actual texts, or actual manuscripts, or actual
speech acts, paintings, etc. Examples would include
"these words on paper" or "those words spoken in

In the theory of programming languages, we talk about
models that map surface forms to ontological models
and operational models. This is the study of "semantics" --
what does a given surface form "denote" in terms of what
happens when it is injected into the environment. The
denotation of ordinary discourse *as a general topic* not
as a kind of puzzle, as it pertains to social order,
seems to me Foucault's main theme.

The temptation exhibited in this thread seems to be to
ask "what ontological model best reflects the meaning
of Foucault's statements" and I'm not sure that's a good
question. Many possible kinds of meaning can be attributed
to surface statements and ontological models are only a small
part of a subset of those meanings.

Rather: I read Foucault as a kind of discursive tactical expert.
He showed how he could read a discourse, absorb the social
tactics in force there, and then reflect those tactics in a map
of them. He was a professional "trouble maker," but not
a professional "metaphysicist." The strongest metaphysical
claim that he makes is nothing more than his choice of
conduct -- to focus on tactics in discourse.

Poulson, in the bottom-quoted stuff below, gives an example
of what weirds me out and Mograin just takes it right up:
He introduces the noun phrase "the archeologist". That's an
ontological concept of deep consequence and I don't think it
is found anywhere in Foucault (but, again: amateur here).

I don't mean to negate the possiblity of a "close reading"
of Foucault and I think it was the pursuit of such a possibility
that sparked this thread but.... "the archeologist"??!? wtf
is that?


p.s.: Foucault would have benefited from some math. A lot of his writing comes off, very much, as a qualitative
/ naturalist take on how programming language theorists
understand language, but as applied to natural discourse.
He *has* to be understood as a little bit imprecise, to be
understood, because the thing he noticed and was pointing
to was a little bit outside of his grasp.

Jean-François Mongrain wrote:

I think you misinterpret this passage. Foucault is not saying the
archeologist is using intuition or analysis, but that the énoncé is the
ontological prerequisite to any analysis or intuition. He is refering the
works of grammar, logic, and speech-act theory which he criticized some
pages before the text you quote. The distinction here is to differentiate
énoncé from grammatical sentences (faire sens - Saussure, Bénéviste) logical
propositions (règles de sucessions et être signe de - Frege, Russell, etc.)
and speech-act (acte effectué par la prononciation - Austin, Searle)... he
is stating what archeology is not !


Jean-François Mongrain

2007/9/18, Frank Ejby Poulsen <frank.ejby.poulsen@xxxxxxxxx>:
I don't think Foucault is inconsistent on this point: The context that
the enouncement includes, is a social reality that you have to adopt if
you want to understand others and to be understood. Since the
enouncement context is abundant in historical texts too, you can - at
least to some extent - read yourself into the historical meaning of
historical texts without having to interpret them. The archeologist
does not decide if the signs make sense, but tries to understand how
they actually MADE sense in the past.

I am quoting again the same passage from Foucault, as in my previous
contribution, where he states explicitely what I wrote:
« L'énoncé ... c'est une fonction d'existence qui appartient en propre aux
signes et à partir de laquelle on peut décider, ensuite, par l'analyse ou
l'intuition, s'ils « font sens » ou non, selon quelle règle ils se
ou se juxtaposent, de quoi ils sont signe, et quelle sorte d'acte se
effectué par leur formulation (orale ou écrite). » (Foucault, Michel
*L'archéologie du savoir*. Paris: Gallimard: page 115)

I don't know what the exact English translation is, but he is stating
something like that: "... one can decide, afterwards, through analysis or
intuition, if they [the signs] "make sense" or not..."

It sounds pretty much to me that Foucault is saying that it is the
archeologist who decides if the signs make sense, through his/her
or analysis.

Now, I haven't spend all my life studying Foucault, but only one year or
reading his works, and especially the Archaeology of knowledge, with the
intention of making an actual archaeology of something myself. So I may be
wrong. If you can show me some examples from Foucault to substantiate your
statement, I would be happy to read them.

Best regards,

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  • Re: [Foucault-L] RE?: Translation of ?nonc? to English
    • From: Jean-François Mongrain
  • Replies
    Re: [Foucault-L] RE?: Translation of ?nonc? to English, Frank Ejby Poulsen
    Re: [Foucault-L] RE?: Translation of ?nonc? to English, Jean-François Mongrain
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