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


I am sorry that you took offense.

In my profession (software engineering), using just
family names without honorifics is very normal in
even quite formal email. Also, among many, I'm known
as someone who commonly makes spelling mistakes.
Honestly, the curt form "Poulsen said" is, in my
profession, respectful because that usage says that
name requires no honorific, gender marker, signal
of my status relation, etc. I see (now) that this is
not your custom. I did not mean to offend.

Frank Ejby Poulsen wrote:
It is also the least one can do to write politely and with respect.

Oh, I did. I was just not received that way.

We are
not discussing at the local pub after pints and pints of beers have achieved
evaporating all good manners and civilised behaviour. So no endless
exclamation and question marks and no "wtf". Besides, showing a lack of good
manners is also disrespecting yourself.

I think we can agree that repeated question marks and exclamation marks,
along with that acronym, happen offend you. I'm happy to try to
remember to avoid them in your presence. You certainly paint a
colorful picture ("local pub" etc.) of how those devices come across to you.

When I wrote "the archaeologist", I just meant the person who is doing an
"archaeology", understood as the "science" (Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault.
Paris: Minuit, 1986) that Foucault intended to set up in the history of
ideas as opposed to classical epistemology, structuralism, and
anthropological interpretations - i.e. analysing the enunciative level of
discourses. You do not even elaborate on why you think it is "an ontological
concept of deep consequence", nor on what this consequence is.

There is your ontological commitment right there: you are expecting
to find a "science of archaeology" which is a field of endeavor that
might be practiced by "a person (the archaeologist)" and whose
rules and axioms are to be at least partially discovered by a close reading
of Foucault. You are saying that somehow his works denote
the essence (or possible essence) of this new science -- they point
to those ontological categories. I imagine you imagining a
textbook of axioms and theorems and a 3 year course in practical
studies culminating in recognition as a "professional archaeologist".

My impression is that the starting-a-new-scientific-field
conception of his work was, for Foucault, more just a rich
source of metaphors. When you try to extract a calculus for
the new science, I think you're bound to just embarrass Foucault
because those particular metaphors he used don't survive
extraction from their context in any coherent, reliable way.

But Foucault
wrote The Archaeology of Knowledge so that other people could make their own
archaeology of other sciences (see Foucault, Michel. "Questions à Michel
Foucault sur la géographie." In *Dits et écrits par Michel Foucault
1954-1988. Vol. III: 1976-1979*, edited by Daniel Defert and François Ewald,
28-40. Paris: NRF Gallimard, 1994 [1976]. English version: Foucault, Michel.
"Questions of Geography." In *Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other
Writings 1972-1977*, by Colin Gordon, 63-77. Harlow: The Harvester Press,
1980.). If a person doing history is called a historian, I just assume that
someone doing an "archaeology" may be called an "archaeologist" because
archaeology is a way of making history (see Veyne, Paul. "Foucault
révolutionne l'histoire." In *Comment on écrit l'histoire*, by Paul Veyne,
383-429. Paris: Seuil: Points, 1978.).

He wrote and spoke so as to have influence, that much is certain.
Some of what he wrote and spoke may have had the literary form
of the announcement of a new field of endeavor. Why should we
actually expect to find one there, though? If that was essentially
metaphor, we should not.

I think a lot of that was metaphor. He debunks a lot
of older models of history, knowledge, etc. and he shows off a
few nifty techniques (in reading, in relating different developments,
in finding evidence in historic texts, etc) that repeatedly lead him
to ask the right questions and to know where to go looking for
answers. He had a poignant gift for conveying the relevance of
his work by applying it to analogies and histories of political issues
that, while central and inspiring, had been largely overlooked.

I just don't see that he ever built any "system" or, really,
seriously aimed to do so.

There's a technical way in which this reading is actually quite
generous. All of Foucault's analyses look, just very basically,
at relations between abstract symbolic artifacts and the physical
"stuff" of human societies. He links ephemeral, informational
human constructs to what actually happens to real bodies and
real places, etc. His main rapier was in feeling out the main
disconnects between accepted *theories* of the meanings of
various texts (symbolic artifacts) and their actual operational
meaning in terms of the real, physical "stuff". He found, in
his sampling of the records, that retrospectively obvious
metaphysical errors in the popular theories of meaning were
seemingly often instigated and sustained by power interests
in the management of bodies and things. And so, he uncovered
a great, pervasive intellectual mistake on the record that, once
we know of this kind of mistake -- now becomes a kind of
intellectual problem which, if ignored, is an intellectual dishonesty.

I think that often when Foucault was talking about new
sciences he was mostly just pointing at little clusters of
unanswered questions and suggestions in his work and
saying "there's probably a lot to look into in that general

Someone else you should pay respect to, beside me and you, is Foucault
himself. You can disagree with him, but calling him "a professional "trouble
maker"" is showing disrespect to a deceased person. They also deserve
respect when commenting their thoughts, no matter how insignificant these
may seem to you.

Oh, you are just misreading me. I have great respect
for his work and his life.

I think he was basically right. I think its sad he didn't live a little
longer so that he could have talked with some people who do
research in complex systems dynamics and some people who do
research in the semantics of both natural and programming languages.
Out of those conversations we might really have gotten (several)
new sciences. We may yet.
(As an aside, intended to help convey my intention not to
offend you. To get personal and to make peace: One of my
main interests in Foucault is in my capacity as a freelance software
engineer. I have the challenge of having to decide what kinds of
new programs to create. So, I have to listen to what many people
have to say about what kinds of program are desirable. But,
how am I to understand the consequences -- the meaning -- of
what I decide to build? What would Foucault say about
the "semantic web," for example?)

I disagree with the "imprecise" character. Doesn't he seem "imprecise" to
you simply because you are not reading him with all due precision to his

That's basically my original question. I thought I might
get a reply like "you are ignorant -- c.f. X, Y, and Z"
but I'm embarrassed that I inspired a reply like "you are a
rude, immature, jerk".

I confess that I thought a bit the same before. However, now, I am
trying myself to do an archaeology, and I find his writings surprisingly
precise, once one has passed his endless negative sentences.

He is excruciatingly precise in his word choices in their context. He
is a luxurious writer. Slow reading. Good literature. And, yes,
I'm just "broad but shallow (except in a few parts where I went deep)"
on reading him -- hence "amateur".

Otherwise, concerning mathematics and precision, your comment smells a lot
like some good old Sokal warmed up. To which I won't answer.

Not at all intended to be that way. I'm trying to be timid in
introducing the C.S. perspective because I while I think it
makes sense (hey, the symbolic logicians get chairs in
philosophy so why not?) -- while i think it makes sense its
very hard to convey why without descending into technobabble.

I have a funny read on Sokal, too:

If you understand his little prank there to be a provocation
with the surface form of ridiculing postmodernism but
the intention of demonstrating many of its observations in
the predictable reaction from other fields and activities --
then it was a pretty good paper!

Amateur comments are more than welcomed anywhere, I am myself an amateur,
and in a way we all are always, but I do think that the moderator of this
list should do something to filtrate comments of that nature. Your tone is
absolutely inappropriate!

My effect on you was entirely unintended and I hope I have
made peace here.


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