free pdf Les mots et les chosesUne archéologie des sciences humaines By Michel Foucault – shelving–for–books.co.uk
One of those books that I eep coming back to again and again The Order Of Things Order of Things French title Words and Things is probably precise is one of those ey books that re orders the way you think It begins with a classic and bravura passage an analysis of Velasuez s Las Meninas that should be reuired reading for anyone interested in exegesis or hermeneutics The book goes on to discuss how we categorise and valorise nowledge how we choose to draw the boundaries of the objects in the world how we prioritise Zoete tranen kinds ofnowledge Not an easy read but a powerful one A ey work highly recommended In this impressive book Foucault takes on the basic organizational episteme of our current epoch He highlights the contemporary modality of our post modern world by tracing the development of our episteme from the 16th century to the present dayWhile this may seem to be a simple tale of historical causation Foucault says explicitly on several occasions that he cannot account for the break between the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century What he is referring to has several possible angles to it which strongly emphasizes that in our current era we have not processed this break fully that we are still within this logic and therefore unable to account for itOne way to speak of this break is to note that in the Classical era nowledge was mediated through a reference to the infinite This had the happy conseuence of making language transparent If there was a limit to our Revived knowledge it lay in the fact that human beings were finite and unable to extend to the fullest reaches ofnowing which would otherwise be available When one contrasts this with the current epoch we have the condition of Student Research Projects in Calculus knowing being mediated by man As Zizek might say a subject hood is self realized selfhood that all conditions ofnowing pass through the selfWhile it may be tempting to digress into philosophical contemplation with this idealist twist Foucault is uick to add that this subjectivity is only made possible because the inherent formalization of various fields have fragmented into their own logic for him biology economics and philology are the ones he looks at but by no means are these positions foundational What I mean by immanent logic is that the formalization which is expressed as the adoptation of mathesis as a neutral symbology by which to express immanent logic forces each of these fields to define the conditions of their nowledge by an appeal to a central agency that is both immanent to the field and conditioned beyond it What ends up happening is that we chase our own shadow Human beings created these fields of nowledge to solve specific tasks relating to how we valuate our situation We want to Love for Imperfect Things know certain things and valuenowing those things in the way that we do thus these fields come to reflect our basis premises as to who we are and how we are To say this in another way these different fragmented sciences are created from and simultaneously inform the cultural biases which outlines these various fields of study In these areas biology economics language and so on ultimately reflect back how we create A Heart of Stone knowing so that when we attempt tonow these fields completely we end up chasing our own reflection Foucault uses the Diego s painting Las Meninas as the metaphor for this nowing The various figures in the field become stabilized in our attempt to see what is going on and in that moment we catch a faint glimpse of our own reflection in the distance For this reason man and subjecthood as Foucault notes are in fact recent authorizations which did not exist previous to this breakYou can find many ideas that he skims here as echoing positions by other thinkers Deleuze Derrida Lyotard Meillasoux Baudrillard they all arrange our situation differently but their arrangement of our situation isn t a genuine stepping out of it In much the same way writers like Kafka and Beckett are only made possible because of the epoch they are already expressing the confusion of the order which refers back to us they are not creating the order nor are they recording its transitionOne of the most telling features that Foucault writes about telling in the sense that this is an Event is how he recasts time as a matter of epistemological entrapment Our inability to decide for ourselves an origin for consciousness is a sign that consciousness exists outside our ability to now because it is the condition of how we Language and Linguistics know This strongly matches Badious writing on the Event signaling that our criteria fornowing remains invisible to us Consciousness like the figure of Man remains the limit to our Divertimento knowledge because we are the figure by which we can come tonow everything else around us Foucault would like to realize the historical causality in the rising of this event but he can t explain it There can be no causality because our methods of understanding will not be able to account for itself In fact I am expressing this episteme right now as the current trace of philosophy and Love Is a Fairy Tale knowledge today sciences included wish to think the unthinking to bring about consciousness to the real conditions ofnowing This of course is a problem because if our human parameters for what matters isn t objective enough for us and in fact can only bring abou. Librarian note an alternate cover for this edition can be found hereWith vast erudition Foucault cuts across disciplines and reaches back into seventeenth century to show how classical systems of nowledge which linked all of nature within a great chain of being and analogies bet. .
T the cultural biases which are expressed #In How We Decide What Is Worthy # how we decide what is worthy nowing and how we should now something what terms are relevant then what should be the basis for the creation of a new nowledgeFoucault offers Nietzche s superman as a possible condition of the new The Eternal Return marks a horrifically new epoch for which we can have new conditions The Nazi trauma as it were was not it because it was not enough to mark a difference that false event was too conditioned already by recent and ancient histories its baggage signaled an allegiance to the current epoch in much the same way Mao or Stalinism did the same Of Course A New Condition course a new condition means a new history also means the end of philosophy or the start of a new one but I digress After publishing Madness and Civilization 1961 and The Birth of the Clinic 1963 in which Michel Foucault dug into the historical layers to find out how each historical era is guided by its own substratum In The Order of Things 1966 Foucault does the exact same thing covering the exact same historical time frame roughly 1500 1900 AD but now in a complete and systematic fashionThe gist is the same the period from the late Middle Ages up to the Renaissance had its own grid that it laid over the world and which determined its nowledge ethics social structure etc This grid was broken up arou I hadn t expected this book to be nearly as interesting as it turned out to be Unfortunately I ve only just finished it and I suspect I m going to need to think about it for a while yet before I really understand some of the arguments here but this is a stunningly interesting book I ve a feeling that if you looked up erudite in the dictionary This book was written on the basis of a joke by Borges where in a short story Borges gives a definition of animals from a supposed Chinese encyclopaedia The definition divides animals into a dozen or so categories animals belonging to the Emperor animals that look like ants when seen from a distance being but two of my favourite non mutually exclusive categories But while Foucault was laughing at this joke he realised that how we categorise the world says remarkable things about usThe other work of art described in this book also right at the start is Velasuez s Las Meninas I ll wait while you search for this on google images if you like His interpretation of this art work is stunning but it takes most of the book to really understand his point in including itThis is a book that tracks three general areas of human enuiry natural history on its path to biology value and exchange on their way to economics and general grammar on its way to linguistics We start with each in the Renaissance and make our way to the present The main turning points come about a century apart from Renaissance to Classical from Classical to Romantic and from Romantic to ModernHis point is that the revolutions that each of these subjects experienced were remarkably consistent over all three even though these subject seek to explain uite different subject matters the way people have gone about structuring these subjects displays an order that says fascinating things about the underlying categories we use to structure our nowledge in particular epochs In the Renaissance for example one of the underlying ideas structuring the way we approached the world was a rather literal interpretation of the Bible In relation to animals that means two stories from the Bible are of particular interest Noah s Ark and the Tower of Babel Why Babel Well prior to Babel we all spoke the original language God gave us presumably somewhat similar to Hebrew and that was the language used by Adam to name the animals In this sense animals were marked by this original categorisation and so if we could only re create these marks these essentially linguistic features we would The Right Sort of Man (Sparks Bainbridge Mystery know something worthnowing of the mind of God of the mind of the creator and therefore something very important about how to order the animal ingdomWith the Classical period there was a fundamental shift away from seeking this ind of representational identity between words and animals now the task of natural history was pretty much to create a huge grid and for that grid to be filled with animals according to some or other organising principle For example you might classify plants by the number of petals their flowers have or the shapes of their leaves You wouldn t classify them according to how bitter they taste taste isn t a highly uantifiable sense or the colour of the plants colours change so you end up with a very limited number of criteria that you can classify plants a point that has Foucault commenting on how we classified as if the only sense we had was colour blind sight and using these you end up with a huge table with rows and columns and if you have done your job properly one day you might even be able to mathematically determine which plants are missing from this great grid of life because you will have the mathematical underpinning of the table of life before youThe shift to the Romantic period is generally assumed to be an understanding however naive of evolution One of my favourite little things to say is that Darwin s grandfather had already understood evolution was a fact all Darwin did was sho. Ween the stars in the heavens and the features in a human face gave way to the modern sciences of biology philology and political economy The result is nothing less than an archaeology of the sciences that unearths old patterns of meaning and reveals the shocking arbitrariness of. W how it worked Now while this is or less true there was a much interesting revolution going on in Natural History one that would finally transform it true there was a much interesting revolution going on in Natural History one that would finally transform it Biology And that is to move away from categorising animals and plants as things as collections of features and to finally see them as living creatures in a dynamic relationship with their environment relationships always being interesting than things that is the features they have are only interesting on the basis of what they have to say about the objective life tasks that the animal confronts These reduce down #to seven I would need to Look This Up But Basically Digestion # seven I would need to Look This Up But Basically Digestion Locomotion Bugger Not this up but basically digestion reproduction locomotion bugger not half how hopeless is thatbut you get the idea Now the interesting thing here is that these processes are all essential to life but they are abstract you don t see digestion or reproduction directly two dogs shagging is not reproduction and so we have moved one level up from the ind of concrete reality the previous organising systems employed counting stuff Also how animals achieve these general and essential processes differs from animal and species to species even if the end result is abstractly the same The insect that breathes through its skin the fish that breathes through its gills the human that breathes with its lungs all breathe We now have biology because we now have life there was a real sense in which all of the plants and animals previously could have been dead and God s plan could still have been manifest to us now that life is central to our way of building our system to classify life that is no longer the caseWhat is fascinating here is that Darwin is not the fulcrum on which the revolution turns but rather this move to the new science is about fifty years prior to Darwin and not even on the basis of evolution I think there is much to this it is a fascinating idea even if it doesn t prove to be right The book presents eually interesting histories of economics and linguistics the point being to show that the fundamental organising schemes in each of these eras and each of these subjects is much the same With economics for example the process moves from a fascination with exchange as the organising principle and creator of value as defined as simple barter and therefore demand and supply as being the origin of value through to Smith s understanding that value is essentially a uantification of the labour contained in goods through to abstract notions of production Yet again the process is from seemingly concrete exchanges to an abstract understanding of the underlying organising principleAnd then things get really interesting There is a bit where he talks about modern understandings that I pretty much didn t understand he mentions Nietzsche a lot here and just about every time he mentioned Nietzsche I stopped being able to follow him But what he does say that I finally could follow again was that the reason he has picked biology economics and linguistics is because these are uintessentially the most basic of the Human Sciences If you talk about psychology sociology or any of the human sciences basically you are talking about either humanity as an animal humanity as an economically engaged member of society or humanity as linguistically aware Draw those three circles on your Venn Diagram and the overlapping sections allow you to or less define all of the other human sciencesThis makes a very interesting response to Marx where Marx sees economics as the basis for human progress and as the underpinning of revolutions in thought Foucault is saying that our understanding of these big three economics linguistics and biology are the ey defining and interrelated modes of progress in our understanding of the world The move towards abstract organising criteria with the dawn of Romanticism in all three of these subjects he links or less to Kant s critical philosophy or Kant s transcendental philosophy ratherI can t really review this book without saying something about Nietzsche Foucault sees the death of God and therefore the simultaneous or thereabouts death of man the myth of the last man and of the superman being the same as the death of man and of the myth of the eternal return of the same as being the Den of Shadows (Gamblers Den key projects facing modern humanity The removal of all absolute criteria for organising the world presents us with a remarkable task how do we go about grounding our science our world view without such an absolute perspective Foucault s view is that our human sciences will move towards psychoanalysis ethnography and linguistics how people understand their personal identity how they understand their cultural identity and how they use language to make these transparent to themselves therefore are the central projects of human sciences He ends by discussing literature and how literature has moved so far from the Renaissance view of language as being about attempting to parallel the notion of language from the start of John s gospel God as the word that issues forth and creates the universe Now literature seeks to press language to its limits and to create emotional responses we are incapable of achieving elsewhere Aind of return in the Nietzscean sense Like I said a fascinating book and one I will need to spend time thinking about. Our received truthsIn the work that established him as the most important French thinker since Sartre Michel Foucault offers startling evidence that “man” man as a subject of scientific nowledge is at best a recent invention the result of a fundamental mutation in our cultu.