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

"It must not be forgotten that 'objective,' or 'positive,' or 'scientific' psychology found its historical origin and its basis in pathological experience. In other words, man became a 'psychologizable species' only when his relation to madness made a psychology possible, that is to say, when his relation to madness was defined by the external dimension of exclusion and punishment and by the internal dimension of moral assignation and guilt. In situating madness in relation to these two fundamental axes, early-nineteenth-century man made it possible to grasp madness and thus to initiate a general psychology. ...

This experience of Unreason in which, up to the eighteenth century, Western man encountered the night of his truth and its absolute challenge was to become, and still remains for us, the mode of access to the natural truth of man. It is understandable, then, that this mode of access should be so ambiguous and that, at the same time, it invites objective reductions (on the side of exclusion) and constatnly solicits the recall to self (on the side of moral assignation). The whole epistemological structure of contemporary psychology is rooted in this event, which is contemporary with the French Revolution and which concerns man‚s relation to himself. 'Psychology' is merely a thin skin on the surface of the ethical world in which modern man seeks his truth - and looses it.

As a result, a psychology of madness cannot be but derisory, and yet it touches on the essential. It is derisory because, in wishing to carry out a psychology of madness, one is demanding that psychology should undermine its own conditions, that it should turn back to that which made it possible, and that it should circumvent what is for it, by definition, the unsuspected. Psychology can never tell the truth about madness because it is madness that holds the truth of psychology. And yet a psychology of madness cannot fail to move toward the essential, since it is obscurely directed toward the e point at which its possibilities are created; that is to say, it moves upstream against its own current toward those regions in which man has a relation with himself and inaugurates that form of alienation that turns him into Homo psychologicus."

Mental Illness and Psychology.

--- On Thu, 11/3/10, Teemu K <teemuta@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> From: Teemu K <teemuta@xxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: Re: [Foucault-L] foucault and "human nature"
> To: "Mailing-list" <foucault-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Received: Thursday, 11 March, 2010, 12:11 AM
> Dear all,
> I would have some questions about this comment of Foucault
> (thanks to Kevin
> about the interesting excerpt):
> "...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"
> 1) What do you think, might Foucault be referring here --
> instead of / in
> addition to the idea of entropy -- to the attempt of the
> late eighteenth
> century to build a unified physiology + pathology (unified
> 'physiopathologie')? This way, it was thought, you could
> get knowledge about
> pathological phenomena on the basis of studying normal
> phenomena: in short,
> pathology grounded in normality. (see Foucault's
> introduction to the English
> translation of Canguilhem's Normal and Pathological and a
> slightly different
> version found in DE t. IV. And of course Canguihem's
> book.)
> 2) And if this is the case, does he really agree with it?
> This would be
> rather interesting, given how much effort Canguilhem
> devoted to his attack
> against the view that we could obtain all relevant
> knowledge about
> pathological phenomena on the basis of the physiology of a
> healthy man.
> best regards,
> Teemu Kemppainen
> Univ. Helsinki.
> On Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 9:30 AM, Kevin Turner <kevin.turner@xxxxxxxxx>
> wrote:
> > 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 nature."
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > Regards,
> > Kevin.
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Foucault-L mailing list
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