Re: [Foucault-L] Foucault: philosopher or historian?

tor, 20 09 2007 kl. 01:03 -0800, skrev Kevin Turner:
> on the question of whether Foucault was a philosoher or historian, you
> should check out the discussion between Gary Gutting
> ( and Béatrice Han
> (
> 202003-05.pdf).
> Personally, I think Foucault was both a philosopher and a historian
> and thus not quite either or more that either.

I don't really feel it important whether he is a historian or a
philosopher. But, Han's critique of Foucault doesn't appear to dismiss
Foucault. Han writes:

> Dreyfus and Rabinow both agree with you that "Foucault certainly does
> not want to say that the rules are followed by the speakers" (MF, 81);
> they even take up the example of grammar themselves to suggest that
> compliance to grammatical rules is neither conscious nor reflective
> (MF, 82). However, they deny that the grammatical model can be
> extended to social regularities in the sense that it requires either a
> causal efficacy (Chomsky or Lévi Strauss), or that one should see the
> rules in a much weaker sense, as merely "descriptive approximations"
> devised to specify the norms sustained by social practices themselves
> (Wittgenstein, Heidegger). Both options are rejected by Foucault: the
> first, because he asserts that the rules must not be understood in
> terms of causal determination (cf. quote above, AK, 73-74). The
> second, because of his postulate that the rules can (and must) be
> analysed at the sole level of discourses, and not in their connection
> to social practices (these will only be taken into account after the
> genealogical turn). Therefore, Dreyfus and Rabinow conclude that, as
> the rules of the historical a priori rely neither on physical
> causality nor on non discursive practices, one should reject the idea
> that they are prescriptive, and understand them as merely
> descriptive: they must be "rules which serve to systematise the
> phenomena, that statements can be given coherence according to
> them" (MF, 81). However, this conflicts with the many places in which
> Foucault also attributes to them their own specific efficacy, and
> claims that the historical a priori "makes possible and governs" the
> formation of discourses (AK, 72), and that statements "obey" (AK,
> 108) its rules.
I don't think this is convincing: Discourses are discursive practices.
Practices are social. Thus, discourses are social practices. No doubt
they are a special brand of social pracitices and therefore requires
special treatment. Han rejects Foucault's regularity concept because
Foucault does not accept any the following two concepts: "social
regularities ... that ... requires either a causal efficacy" and "...
"descriptive approximations" devised to specify the norms sustained by
social practices themselves". She lets out a third opportunity: social
rules that are cogent for intellegibility, but do not determine what
you say? That is exactly the way I understand Foucault's enounces.

Eventually, Han says:

> You're right that, independently of the reconstructions I have
> offered, many of my criticisms implicitly rest on the idea that
> archaeology and genealogy need foundations that Foucault fails to
> provide. I'll readily grant that this is per se a debatable
> assumption, the validity of which depends on what is meant by
> "foundation". Obviously, there can be no foundation in the sense of a
> metaphysical ground, an underlying principle which would unify the
> whole of Foucault's thought in such a way that all his assertions
> could be traced back, one way or another, to that ground.

That is, she admits that her "foundationalism" is debateable.

So, what is left, is that Han says that Foucault's works to some extent
is inconsistent. Fine, something is left to do.


  • Re: [Foucault-L] Foucault: philosopher or historian?
    • From: Jean-François Mongrain
  • Replies
    [Foucault-L] Foucault: philosopher or historian?, Kevin Turner
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