Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature"

Is this article for real? What is your take on it?
On Mar 9, 2010, at 12:57 PM, Kevin Turner wrote:

life, once again, has a purpose, and man can take up his rightful place at the center of all things...

-----Original Message-----
From: kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx
Sent: Thu, 4 Mar 2010 23:30:00 -0800
To: foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature"

There's a passage from an interview that Foucault gave (in 1967, I
think), which may help to shed some light on his understanding of "human

The passage comes from 'Who are you, Professor Foucault?' in Carrette,
J. R. (ed.) Religion and Culture, Manchester, 1999: 87-104, and it reads:

We have to resign ourselves to taking, faced with mankind, a position
similar to the one taken towards the end of the eighteenth century with
regard to other living species, when it was realised that they did not
function for someone – neither for themselves, nor for man, nor for God –
but that they quite simply functioned. Organisms function. Why do they
function? In order to reproduce? Not at all. To keep alive? No more for
this reason. They function. They function in a very ambiguous way, in
order to live but also in order to die, since it is well known that the
functioning which makes life possible is a functioning which constantly
wears matter out, in such a way that it is precisely that which makes
possible life which at the same time produces death. Species do not
function for themselves, nor for man, nor for the greater glory of God;
they confine themselves to functioning. The same thing may be said of the
human species. Mankind is a species endowed with a nervous system such
that to a certain point it can control its functioning. And it is plain
that this possibility of control continuously raises the idea that
mankind must have a purpose. We discover that purpose insofar as we have
the possibility of controlling our own functioning. But this is to turn
things around. We tell ourselves: as we have a purpose, we must control
our functioning; whereas in reality it is only on the basis of this
possibility of control that ideologies, philosophies, systems of
metaphysics, religions can appear, which provide a certain image able to
focus this possibility of controlling functioning...It is the possibility
of control which gives rise to the idea of purpose. But mankind has in
reality no purpose, it functions, it controls its own functioning, and it
continually creates justifications for this control. We have to resign
ourselves to admitting that these are only justifications. Humanism is
one of them, the last one’ (RAC: 102).

I see no evidence that Foucault ever radically revised this position.


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  • Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature"
    • From: M. Karskens
  • Replies
    Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature", Mehmet Kentel
    [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature", Chetan Vemuri
    Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature", Teresa Mayne
    Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature", Kevin Turner
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