Re: [Foucault-L] and Husserl?

I sent the following comment yesterday but under the wrong email address, so expanding it and sending again:

Althusser speaks in his autobiography of the three H's of his time in French philosophy - Hegel, Heidegger, & Husserl.

Seems like at the ENS the discussion of these three H's was pervasive - Foucault was of course A's colleague, as was Canguilhem. The intellectual context of the ENS was of course much broader than these thinkers, and many never published their works, or published it only in obscure places, but was no doubt influential at the ENS. Tran Duc Thao, for example, is often mentioned as an influence in the 1950s.

Here's Paul Ricoeur's blurb from the back of the 1985 translation:

"This work of Thao, in an elegant, laconic, and remarkably lucid prose, elaborates the rationale that motivated Husserl's philosophizing... Thao's knowledge of Husserl, as well as of the entire history of philosophy, is most impressive, and he has the ability to elucidate and bring to life some of the most abstruse epistemological writings of Kant, Husserl, and others. ...consider this one of the clearest introductions to phenomenology and would consider it a superb text to use in introducing my students to phenomenology."

Given that Thao was well-known in Parisian circles back then it would seem likely that his book _Phenomenology and Dialectical Materialism_ was an important influence on all of these thinkers. He seems to have been greatly respected, even if many of those who spoke highly of him - such as Althusser - were not phenomenologists.

On 20/10/2010, at 8:36 AM, james wrote:

This is all very helpful.

I have read the material relating to the indirect influence of
Cavaillès, and some of it clarifies what is at stake in Foucault's
early work, specifically his archaeological method. I think more work
probably needs to be done in this area, as Cavaillès' work emphasizes
the question of logic in Husserl and its relation to mathematics, and
is quite dense by most standards (consider that both Bachelard and
Canguilhem were in a sense were apologetic for the difficulty of his
work, while also calling for readers who might engage it on its own
level). It is here that I sense something important could be said
about Foucault's work: in regard to the question of method as it was
handed down to him through a critical view of phenomenology as
archaeology (something that Husserl himself suggested). I agree that
it is Foucault's reading of Nietzsche, and subsequent
problematizations of experience through its exposure to a limit that
is not located in the subject or even in the individual, that is
responsible for a certain Foucauldian shift away from phenomenology

Having said that, it is not at all clear to me how a Husserlian
"phenomenological archaeology," inflected with the problem of
limit-experiences that we encounter in Nietzsche, Bataille, Blanchot,
etc. opens onto a specifically Foucauldian method. The results of
this encounter are plain enough, but what concerns Foucault in a
different way that leads to something like the Archaeology of
Knowledge (and precisely *not* The Order of Things)? I get the sense
that there is a problem of the non-phenomenological concretion of
various logics (in their variety) that occupies his thought. Possibly
as a result of his relationship with the work of Althusser.

Any thoughts?


On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 5:15 PM, Jeffrey Tallane <linactuel@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I found an interesting paper where the author handels the problem of
Foucault's early phenomenological influence, but it is written in french.

Philippe Sabot « L'expérience, le savoir et l'histoire dans les premiers
écrits de Michel Foucault », *Archives de Philosophie* 2/2006 (Tome 69),
p. 285-303.
URL : page-285.htm.

The author seems to present the interesting hypothesis that, on one side, in
his relations with phenomenology, early Foucault was more directly
influenced by Maurice Merleau Ponty (who also did a sort of "archeology")
than Husserl's transcendantal phenomenology. But on the other side, whi know
that Foucault was also influenced by Canguilhem, Cavailles, Bachelard who
were more concerned with the problem of "knowledge" than "experience". And
it could be possible that Foucault's early methodology was build on an
intense debate with the phenomenological tradition regarding the difficult
problem of "experience", leading to a tension between a phenomenological
concept of a "lived experience" and the question of "limit experiences" as a
critical test in the field of knowledge, on which he could have matured the
archeological methodology.* Very *Interesting!
Something not mentienned in the article is the big influence of George
Bataille and Sade on Foucault. Those kind of subversive thinkers who always
focused on those critical or limit experiences in their writings...

Jeffrey Tallane

2010/10/19 M. Karskens <mkarskens@xxxxxxxxxx>

There is a difference between
- a general influence transmitted by the
philosophical texts and textbooks that were used
in the Lycee and the ENS, and by the teachers and
professors. Inbetween 1945 and 1970 all
philosophy students on the Continent read a lot
of phenomenology and they most often started
doing phenomenology by reading Husserls early
works (1900-1910) and studying his critique of scientism in psychology.
see for example in the interview of 1968
'Foucault answers Sartre' (Dits et Ecrits I, p.
667): 'I belong to a generation to whom the
horizon of their reflexion was in a general way
defined by Husserl and in a specific way by
Sartre and more precisely Merleau Ponty...' (he
does not mention Heidegger here)

- a specific influence which can be found in the
use of Husserl's phenomenological method - for
example putting inbetween brackets, analysis of
intentionality, 'Wesensschau' - and/or of
particular Husserlian arguments. I could not find
such an influence in Foucault's works.

- and a detailed exposition, comment or critique
of some Husserlian texts or arguments that is
used in order to develop one's own thesis or theory.
I could find only two places where that happens:
1) in the introduction on Binswanger Foucault
discusses Husserl's Logical Investigations
including some later versions which are only in
his manuscripts in order to explain the
difference between 'index' (sign)
and signification embedded in a living
experience (in French: éxperience vécu) (see Dits
et Ecrits I pp. 74-78). This is a to the point
analysis in order to make clear he difference
between a phenomenological and a psychoanalytic
analysis of signification. Lateron in the introduction it is not used any
In the articles of 1957 on Psychology as a
science, Husserl is only mentioned by the way and
his anti-psychologism is not discussed

2) a general discussion of the role of Husserlian
phenomenology in explaining the position of Man
as a empirical-transcendental doublet in the
modern episteme in The Order of Things, ch. X, sect. v.

That's all. In all other references to Husserl,
he just is mentioned in a list of names.

machiel karskens

At 23:41 18-10-2010, you wrote:
Hello, I think it is difficult to answer the
question without refering to Foucault's
biography. The influence of Husserl's work on
Foucault has certainly something to do with the
fact that he worked as a psychologist for a
time, before being the famous philosopher whe
all know. Whe also know that he studied Merleau
Ponty's work during his years at the ENS, and
Merleau Ponty is a french phenomenologist who,
with Sartre at the same time, was directly
referring to Husserl's work. But, after that,
Foucault's work on psychology before he ended
his famous thesis on madness, made him interest
into a form of psychoanalysis directly
influenced by phenomenology and hermeneutics.
For exemple, in 1954, he wrote a big
introduction to Ludwig Binswanger's french
traduction of *Traum und Existenz*. Binswanger
psychoanalysis (Daseinsanalysis) was firstly
inspired by Edmund Husserl's work, before he
adopted a more Heideggerian terminology after
1929, after Sein und Zeit was published... This
means that for sure, Foucault had an early
contact with phenomenology (Husserl and Merleau
Ponty), because of his interests into
phsycology. But after the reading of Nietzsche
(his "philosophical shock") and Heidegger (that
he surprisingly never mention in his 1954 work
on Binswanger!), it seems that Foucault became
verry critical against the fundamental
phenomenological principles, the transcendantal
subject, cartesian subjectivity or kantian
transcendantalism, as it seems that Foucault was
taking Nietzsche's doubt verry seriously: there
is something that is thinking, but are we sure
that "I" is the thinker? But it is also like he
was following Heidegger's early critic of
metaphysics, for whom the modern subject,
defined by the identity of "subjectum" and
aristotle's "to hypokeimenon", is conceived as
the central metaphysical principle that
determined ontology and knowledge since
Descartes. Maybe, another factor that influenced
him against the phenomenological (or bergsonian)
conception of subject is the influence of
structuralism during the 60's, but that's
another story... Cordially, Jeffrey Tallane
2010/10/18 <a.e.leeds@xxxxxxxxx> > 1. One line
of transmission is through Cavailles and
Canguilhem: > > Hyder, David, 2003. Foucault,
Cavaillès, and Husserl on the Historical >
Epistemology of the Sciences, Perspectives on
Science 2003, vol. 11, > no. 1 > > Thompson,
THE CONCEPT, History and Theory 47 > (February
2008), 1-18 > > Webb, David(2003) 'Cavailles,
Husserl and the historicity of science', >
Angelaki, 8: 3, 59 — 72 > > 2. But, I mean, its
just absurd to think that any Frenchman
writing > then (not to say that the situation is
that different now) would not > have read and
discussed huge quantities of Husserl. > > 3. One
word: Heidegger. > > > > > > On Mon, Oct 18,
2010 at 6:29 PM, james <spatium@xxxxxxxxx>
wrote: > > Now that we have assessed the
influence of Bergson on Foucault, I have > >
always wanted to know about Husserl's
influence. Does anyone know any > >
details? Jeffrey Tallane mentioned his name as
influence, but what > > hard evidence is there
outside the general phenomenological
concern? > > > > James > >
_______________________________________________ >
> Foucault-L mailing list > > > > > > -- >
Adam E. Leeds > Ph.D. Candidate > Department of
Anthropology > University of Pennsylvania, and >
Visiting Researcher > Center for Economic and
Financial Research (CEFIR) > ÐœÐ¾Ñ ÐºÐ²Ð°:
+7-985-929-33-49 > US: 914.980.2970 >
leeds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx > >
_______________________________________________ >
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Prof. Machiel Karskens
social and political philosophy
Faculty of Philosophy
Radboud University Nijmegen - The Netherlands
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[Foucault-L] and Husserl?, james
Re: [Foucault-L] and Husserl?, a . e . leeds
Re: [Foucault-L] and Husserl?, Jeffrey Tallane
Re: [Foucault-L] and Husserl?, M. Karskens
Re: [Foucault-L] and Husserl?, Jeffrey Tallane
Re: [Foucault-L] and Husserl?, james
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