Read The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault Online


Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here.With vast erudition, Foucault cuts across disciplines and reaches back into seventeenth century to show how classical systems of knowledge, which linked all of nature within a great chain of being and analogies between the stars in the heavens and the features in a human face, gave way to the modern scieLibrarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here.With vast erudition, Foucault cuts across disciplines and reaches back into seventeenth century to show how classical systems of knowledge, which linked all of nature within a great chain of being and analogies between 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 our received truths.In 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 knowledge—is at best a recent invention, the result of a fundamental mutation in our culture....

Title : The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
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ISBN : 9780679753353
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Number of Pages : 416 Pages
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The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences Reviews

  • Trevor
    2019-06-18 09:16

    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 us.The other work of art described in this book, also right at the start, is Velasquez'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 it.This is a book that tracks three general areas of human enquiry - 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 Modern.His point is that the revolutions that each of these subjects experienced were remarkably consistent over all three - even though these subject seek to explain quite 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 knowledge 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 know something worth knowing of the mind of God, of the mind of the creator and therefore something very important about how to order the animal kingdom.With the Classical period there was a fundamental shift away from seeking this kind 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 quantifiable 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 you.The 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 show how it worked. Now, while this is more or less true, there was a much more interesting revolution going on in Natural History - one that would finally transform it into 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 more 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, reproduction, locomotion (bugger, not even half, how hopeless is that?but 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 kind 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 case.What 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 equally 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 quantification of the labour contained in goods through to more abstract notions of production. Yet again the process is from seemingly concrete exchanges to an abstract understanding of the underlying organising principle.And 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 quintessentially 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 more or less define all of the other human sciences.This 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 key defining and interrelated modes of progress in our understanding of the world. The move towards more abstract organising criteria with the dawn of Romanticism in all three of these subjects, he links, more or less, to Kant's critical philosophy, or Kant's transcendental philosophy, rather.I can't really review this book without saying something more 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 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 more 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. A kind of return in the Nietzscean sense. Like I said, a fascinating book, and one I will need to spend more time thinking about.

  • Khawla Al jafari
    2019-05-28 10:00

    لنتفق أنّ قراءة فوكو مرهقة لأنّهُ يستقرئ المعرفة بطريقة أفقية ؛ فخطابه من أوله لآخره تاريخي وفي الآن ذاته يحفر بعمق العمق . حاولت فهم منهجه وآلية تفكيره لكنني لم أصل حتّى الآن لتصوّر واضح وعلمي ومتكامل لكن سأحاول إيجاز ما خلصت به من هذا الكتاب على هيئة نقاط .- الأشياء تتغيّر ليس وفقًا لحاجات البشر وإنَّما لخدمة سلطة ما .-فوكو أراد الشّك في كلّ شيء. - لماذا يصرّ فوكو على إدخال الأدب في كتابته ؟ أو لماذا يبدأ من منطلق أدبي ؟ لأنّ المعرفة دون الأدب حتمًا منقوصة .-الإصرار على لغة الاستعارة والمجاز والفن التشكيلي لأن الفنانين أنصاف فلاسفة لكنّهم أكثر بكثير من الفلاسفة ، أو كما قال نيتشه : كل الحقيقة استعارات.- مشكلة فوكو ليست ميتافيزيقية هو يرى قابلية الفكرة بالعصر وحيثيات المجتمع .-المعرفة تثبُتُ بالأسماء والصّفات ، وسيل الأفعال يسحق الأنا. -الكتاب مهم جدًا وفي كثير من فصوله ستجدهُ ماتعًا :)

  • Daniel Bastian
    2019-05-29 10:01

    "Between language and the theory of nature there exists therefore a relation that is of a critical type; to know nature is, in fact, to build upon the basis of language a true language, one that will reveal the conditions in which all language is possible and the limits within which it can have a domain of validity." (p. 161)There's no need to beat around the bush: The Order of Things is, bar none, the densest read on my shelf to date. Philosophy tyros steer clear; an entry-level text this is not. To say that this was as difficult to read as it was to understand would be a heavy understatement. Snippets patterned after the one above would frequently invite two- and three-peat readings to absorb before moving on to the next, equally demanding line of Foucaultian esoterica. Michel Foucault, writing in the French philosophy tradition, is touted as a librarian of ideas, and his works demonstrate such canonical breadth that they are surely not intended to be consumed in isolation. Indeed, you had better have a working understanding of the systems of knowledge throughout Western history if you stand any chance of deconstructing this significant opus.Foucault's acumen and seemingly bottomless knack for depth are on full display in this, his most ambitious and the one that propelled him to stardom, work. However, even with a solid grasp of philosophy and the pivotal shifts in Western thought, you must then also place these insights within the tramlines of the baroque prose Foucault has prepared. Similitudes, resemblances, representation, significations, character, the analytic of finitude, empirico-transcendental: familiarity with this repetition of terminology will be critical if one is to grok the landscape Foucault has delicately painted.The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966) is nothing less than a genealogy of ideas, an intellectual ancestry of the Western mind. Along the way, Foucault somehow manages to retrace the entire development of science, restricting his analysis to a specific slice of spacetime: European culture since the 16th century. It is a work so daunting in scope, and so winged in its execution, that it seems to relish in keeping the mind in a perpetual state of entanglement, sputtering, caroming as you eagerly await for a resting point to collect your wits and proceed further into the well. He blinds you with brilliance, and insists that you see. Foucault ricochets between the intellectual giants of the Western world in rapid-fire fashion, traipsing from Spinoza to Descartes to Kant to Marx, Freud and Adam Smith, to Nietzsche, seemingly all while assuming on the part of the reader a dissertation-level of intimacy with each. Come prepared.As I understand it—and I am most emphatically not claiming that I do—Foucault is demonstrating that there do exist traceable patterns in the great developments of Western thought in terms of limits, possibilities and approaches to new and old knowledge, but also discontinuities and breaks from old ways of thinking. How "clean" these breaks were is of course a matter of debate. He focuses in on three domains-linguistics and philology (language), biology (life) and economics (labor)-emphasizing how the intellectual boundaries present in each historical era shaped how man thought about these venues and how they approached and reflected on new developments and discoveries that pervaded our consciousness. Whether we were categorizing or taxonomizing, articulating or deconstructing, we operated in the epistemes confined to our period of history, but also turned toward new modes of discourse as ideas emerged out of the Western world's interminable, civilizational march.There is also the niggling question of "man" and how and where s/he figures into the whole grandiose state of affairs. Foucault seems to be arguing that man, like everything else, is a historical construct, and its relation to the order of nature pivots according to developments in each area of inquiry, including but not limited to, the human sciences. That is, man's interpretation of man is a product of the historical development of the spaces that have most dominated the human intellect, viz the human sciences of (proto-)biology, anthropology and psychoanalysis, the social sciences of economics and labor, and, most intricately, the all-enveloping force of language, which is coextensive with every sphere with which we make contact. Certainly, man's shifting coordinates within the grid of knowledge and human inquiry is of special emphasis here in Foucault's sweeping manifesto.In the closing sections, Foucault hints toward a new episteme, something that is ill-defined, turbid, hazy but which carries all the signs of a break from what came before. He doesn't specify with any precision what this branching episteme consists of, or which domain(s) has largely catalyzed its brachiation, but he seems to think it is imminent as a reflection of the mid-20th century region Foucault occupied.Closing ThoughtsA work like this is one which eludes classification, much like how the centerpiece of the book itself—man—resists arrangement within its relation to human knowledge. The Order of Things is simply, and not so simply, sui generis, transcending the common boundaries of empirical disciplines and even philosophy. Foucault's writing is ornate, painstakingly precise in places yet frustratingly ambiguous in others (so much so that, like me, you might desire the opportunity to stop every now and again and ask questions). I wish I could say that I grasped the book in its overarching messages as well as its more subtle analyses, but this will require subsequent readings, likely several more. If you've previously been introduced to Foucault or his French antecedents, you may be in a better position to follow along. But if you're like me, this will be a humbling read, an intellectual tour de force that incessantly reminds you how much more there is yet to learn.For a more informed and capable post-book analysis, I recommend this page for a good starting point."History shows that everything that has been thought will be thought again by a thought that does not yet exist." (p. 372)

  • Bradley
    2019-05-31 09:14

    I have now devoted nearly three months to doing close readings of nearly every book by Michel Foucault. I can die happy :) Except, I'm more confused! I know less now than I did before. And that's precisely the point. We are still living with Philosophical ideas from the Classical Period (i.e. humanism, Neo-Classical Liberalism, Capitalism, etc.). Yet Foucault shows, time and time again, that the institutions established during the Classical Period have taken on a life of their own, often times violently. Yet we are all still trapped within the inertia of History. A professor of mine explained everything I ever needed to know about Post-Modern Subjectivity. He said, "Have you ever watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines?" "No," I said. He replied disgruntled, "Where's your education? Ok, so contemporary society is like the end of that movie. John Conner goes to the Central Command center to avoid the Judgment Day, where the machines overthrow the humans. And he finds out that there is no central command. The machines are ruling themselves, there is no center, and nothing the hero can do will stop the inevitable destruction on Judgment Day. No human actor can stop the inevitable downfall of the human race. The machines represent the subjectivity of the coming revolution, the people are humanists, and Judgment Day means we are all basically fucked." He's right. Global Warming, Boom and Bust Cycles of Capitalism, the growing alienation of disaffected youth populations, all point to a coming crisis, collapse, or total revolution. But this does not mean that we're going to be better off!In my opinion, Birth of the Clinic, History of Sexuality vol. 2, and History of Madness are my favorite books by Foucault. As they say in Sideways... Quaffable, but far from transcendent. My favorite part of this book is the bit on Ricardo, which turns into a digression on Marx and Nietzsche, and the charts that are sprinkled throughout the text.

  • DoctorM
    2019-06-11 06:15

    One of those books that I keep coming back to again and again. "The Order of Things" (the French title, "Words and Things" is probably more precise) is one of those key books that re-orders the way you think. It begins with a classic and bravura passage--- an analysis of Velasquez's "Las Meninas" ---that should be required reading for anyone interested in exegesis or hermeneutics. The book goes on to discuss how we categorise and valorise knowledge--- how we choose to draw the boundaries of the objects in the world, how we prioritise kinds of knowledge. Not an easy read, but a powerful one. A key work--- highly recommended.

  • Alex Lee
    2019-06-08 03:23

    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 day.While 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 it.One way to speak of this break is to note that in the Classical era, knowledge was mediated through a reference to the infinite. This had the happy consequence of making language transparent. If there was a limit to our knowledge it lay in the fact that human beings were finite and unable to extend to the fullest reaches of knowing, which would otherwise be available. When one contrasts this with the current epoch, we have the condition of knowing being mediated by man. As Zizek might say, a subject-hood is self-realized selfhood, that all conditions of knowing pass through the self.While it may be tempting to digress into philosophical contemplation with this idealist twist, Foucault is quick 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 knowledge 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 knowledge to solve specific tasks relating to how we valuate our situation. We want to know certain things and value knowing 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 knowing, so that when we attempt to know these fields completely we end up chasing our own reflection. Foucault uses the Diego's painting Las Meninas as the metaphor for this knowing. 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 break.You 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 transition.One 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 know because it is the condition of how we know. This strongly matches Badious writing on the Event, signaling that our criteria for knowing remains invisible to us. Consciousness like the figure of Man remains the limit to our knowledge because we are the figure by which we can come to know 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 knowledge today (sciences included) wish to think the unthinking, to bring about consciousness to the real conditions of knowing. 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 about the cultural biases which are expressed in how we decide what is, worthy of knowing and how we should know something (what terms are relevant) then what should be the basis for the creation of a new knowledge?Foucault 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 also means a new history, also means the end of philosophy... or the start of a new one, but I digress.

  • Stef Rozitis
    2019-05-31 09:03

    It is quite possible that there was a lot more to this book than I got out of it, and that Foucault's thinking might have been extremely exciting if only I could have decoded it. I am not annoyed at the use of so many long and unfamiliar words, because sometimes long words do say something that shorter words can't. I am not irritated that I had to look up lots of words nor that I had to struggle with the definitions to try to get my head around unfamiliar ways of thinking...I would expect all that from a post-structuralist. I did not expect that he would use his words in such an absolute way, not defining what he means by words even when he is using them in a slightly off-centre way (I am not sure whether my criticisms apply more to FOUCAULT MICHEL himself or his translator).I did not appreciate how many of the sentences ran on for over ten lines (ten dense and adequately wide lines) and that one had several colons and semicolons to give the wrong impression of a break ran on for EIGHTEEN LINES of densely written, wordy, hard to grasp academic show-offyness (I accept that a smarter person than me might find the words easier, but the sentence structure I think would put anyone off).What it is, is a history of thinking and classifying thought/concepts. So it takes in evolutions in science, history, linguistics and more recently psychology and sociology. I appreciate the idea that "man" did not exist as something to be considered until comparatively recently. I had not thought of that, but it makes sense once you have read through the whole book. I enjoyed the illustration of the painting with the different roles and points of view, the argument was still difficult to follow but there was a focus in that and I liked that the author returned to this to illustrate the newness of the centrality of "man" (though I had some waspish feminist thoughts about gender here and also added my own thoughts about the race and class of this narcissistic god-replacing "man"). I didn;t enjoy Foucault's androcentric language, but on the other hand reading critically the whole history of thought and thinking (rationality) can be then portrayed (with Foucault's lovely long sentences that take forever to wade through) as a male self-indulgent wank-fest while women were relegated more ordinary things like conversations and connections and meals and care of the young and old. This nasty interpretation of why Foucault talks about "man", "men" and "he" consistently may not be the whole truth but it is not wholly untrue either.The guy does not put references in properly (except occasionally when he feels like footnoting), probably because being so much greater and smarter than the rest of us he does not need to back up his thinking and we should take what he says on faith. At times I wanted to know where a thought (supposing I even understood it) was coming from. In this way, I would have liked him to write more pedagogically, to write to inform or teach me rather than just to showcase his admittedly great knowledge of ancient texts and ability to name-drop a whole heap of important writers that I never heard of.I also got confused that he writes in each age in the present tense (so he says "we think this and such and such is true" in the sixteenth century -for example). Once I got used to this I sort of enjoyed it but it means he is dangerous to use in a literature review as you could easily take him right out of context. I was disappointed actually considering that anybody who is anybody these days quoted Foucault (especially if they are even remotely post-structuralist and many critical writers do too). The disappointment was that this was not more useful for my thesis or even I think for my thinking. It was interesting and clever but I am not sure it meaningfully expanded my mind or knowledge (maybe because some of it was over my head- I must be honest).I am not sure who I would recommend this book to apart from people who think they are smarter than everyone else and need the challenge (or at least will stop acting superior for a few days while they wrestle with the LENGTHY overwording). Sort of fun I suppose in a masochistic way, but if it was condensed to half the length I would mean the "fun" a lot more sincerely!

  • Dan
    2019-06-17 11:01

    Foucault is hard to categorize. Some see him as a post-structuralist, others argue that he is a new historicist. I think he sees himself as a descendant of Friedrich Nietzsche.The first part of this book is great simply on the level of entertainment. Foucault's analysis of Velazquez's Las Meninas stands out as an essay that can be read on its own. I also enjoyed Foucault's discussion of Don Quixote.The latter part of the book is much more of a historical study. Foucault has an interesting theory about the changes in the dominant epistemes--the ways we organize knowledge--and he employs an analysis of Enlightenment texts to substantiate his argument.

  • Billie Pritchett
    2019-05-24 03:22

    I don't really know what to make of Michel Foucault's The Order of Things. Some things appear to be true in it, and other things new. The things that are true aren't new, and the things that are new aren't true. Foucault argues that there was a turning point in understanding and inquiry which occurred during the 18th century, perhaps near the tail end. All fine so far, and that is surely one way to divide up intellectual history. Foucault is right that the Age of Enlightenment brought about new ways of thinking about human beings and the world, but the rest I don't claim to understand.Foucault has this complicated idea that language's role in knowledge changed into the 18th century. How does he determine this? Through philological analysis, looking at how the use of certain key terms changed over time. That's at least a main way he goes about the studies. But this philological or semantic analysis hardly renders the kind of evidence needed to justify such tall claims as Foucault as making.Maybe someone out there smarter than I am can explain the views to me and give me Foucault's evidence for the claims. I can't understand it from Foucault himself. Could just be my problem.

  • Lukáš
    2019-05-26 11:24

    Perhaps the most useful book for getting together some of the Foucault's ideas scattered through his work. First, by putting together a history of epistemes of labour, life and language, showing the patterns of discontinuity, this one offers Focuault a lot of space to elaborate on the current (or perhaps his current) structure of thought about the human sciences. One could clearly discover where the importance of subjectivity, normality and life (biopower) have played role in the formation of modern episteme. Second, the discontinuities described to detail here provide a set of questions and although Foucault's speculations on them are sophisticated, many of these have gone further in Foucault's work ever since the publication of this collection. Since his later works often go back to some of the ideas developed in this book as much as they often follow patterns of their own, I believe there is a lot to be gained from some of the chapters in here, especially of those on representation and its limits, the role of finitude and nature in contemporary thought. The fact that this is an essential reading is better to be seen for what this book is rather than for how it is, although several parts remain quite readable in particular.

  • Dr. Lloyd E. Campbell
    2019-06-09 09:20

    I had read the first chapter of this book in a book club. The subject of the book club was Diego Velasquez' painting Las Meninas, generally considered-the most provocative painting in the history of art. The painting 's subject can be a little girl, the king and queen of Spain, the artist or the viewer-you. It's all about perspective. According to Foucault you create the reality of the painting by the language you use to describe the painting. The artist's intent doesn't matter to you. What matters to you is your interpretation of the painting- that's reality. Foucault says the rest of the book is an elaboration of this idea. As with Velasquez, Foucault 's intent doesn't matter. What matters is what you think. You create a history of the present by creating a world that increasingly increases your freedom. Those in control politically, control reality by deciding what is normal, what is important, what is real. To reclaim your life, to be free is to create a different reality for yourself. If you don't fit into someone else's reality, create your own by creating a different perspective.If you like thinking this way, you'll love Foucault If you are conventional, dogmatic or just don't enjoy thinking in novel ways this book is not for you.

  • Darran Mclaughlin
    2019-05-22 04:04

    I'm finished in the sense that I know I'm not going to pick it up and continue again any time soon. I made it to page 273, but I have found it a bit too boring and difficult to find the discipline to continue.What Foucault has to say is fairly interesting, but after getting the gist of the idea from the introduction, and (to be honest) a synopsis of the contents I don't think there's much to be gained from actually reading the book. I understand the idea of paradigm shift's in our body of knowledge and I believe they happen and that culture affects everything, including supposedly objective practices such as science. However, Foucault's attempt to demonstrate this is narrow, unconvicing, full of unquestioned assumptions that what has taken place in Western Europe can be said to demonstrate universal principles, and written in an extremely boring fashion, which I wasn't expecting. Nietsche railed against German thinkers for writing such a dull, heavy, ugly prose and envied the French for their light, witty writing tradition. Unfortunately the French seem to have bought into the idea of Germanic profundity in their writing style these days.

  • Lance
    2019-06-03 10:02

    As with most of Foucault's work, this book oscillates between barely discernible prose, discussion of obscure texts, and moments of clear profundity that will blow your mind. Foucault's overall argument is fairly simple, at least in today's context, where many of Foucault's ideas and methods are often taken as a priori. Basically, shifts in epistemes created a space where "man" appeared as an object of study. The human sciences didn't appear because of new enlightened ideas, but because the discursive organizations changed. Since Foucault is working with a new paradigm and new method, he really takes the reader literally step by step. In fact, I'm not sure I entirely buy his argument, but I'm not willing to read all the books he read to double-check :-). The thing about much of Foucault's work is that he lives in a pretty narrow world -- the canonical male thinkers in European philosophy.I also highly recommend reading "The Archaeology of Knowledge," where Foucault describes his methodological apparatus with more detail. In a way, I think these too books are more useful today as methodologies, rather than philosophical or theoretical treatises.

  • Mercurio Cadena
    2019-06-05 09:27

    Me llevó un rato, pero por fin lo acabé. Foucault es oscuro, pero una vez que se le agarra el hilo, termina por ser más bello que oscuro, y eso sí: contundente.Si le interesan los temas epistemológicos, este libro es imperdible. Contiene una muy fina explicación arqueológica de por qué, como posmodernos, hemos entrado en crisis en nuestras búsquedas funcionalistas de conocimiento y sentido.

  • Conor
    2019-06-06 06:18

    I'd be lying if I said that I found reading this book pleasant - it's super dense, even compared to Foucault's other work. I'd also be lying if I said that it didn't change the way I view thought in the west.

  • Fouletier
    2019-05-31 05:09

    Michel Foucault nous délivre dans ce livre sa vision du cheminement de la pensée occidentale du Moyen-âge à nos jours, s'attardant sur le passage à l'âge de la représentation à partir du XVI ème siècle, que le tableau:Les Ménines de Velasquez symbolise à ses yeux.

  • Rachel
    2019-06-10 05:02

    This book is about how we're all just an empirico-transcendental doublet strapped to the back of a tiger. Now that I've read it the only thing I know is that Foucault is totally gay for Nietzsche—"he was so wise, he knew so much, he wrote such good books." Nietzsche!

  • David M
    2019-06-02 03:02

    The death of man turns out to be one big fat anti-climax. It's just a melodramatic way of saying the social sciences are changing their focus. Don't be fooled by all the Nietzsche-mongering. The shadow of Kant falls heaviest on this book. An investigation into the knowledge of knowledge.

  • Thomas J. Hubschman
    2019-06-01 03:07

    I have been reading Foucault—again. Rereading. Unless you are as quick and clever as he is, you don't just "read" Michel Foucault as if he were a mystery novel or an office memo. He frequently requires the kind of concentration you bring to the solution of a geometry theorem or the translation of an ancient text.I was never very good at either of those activities—mathematics or translation—with a few significant exceptions, significant because what I achieved in each case not only gave me confidence in the power of my abilities but opened up a brief but enduring view into the rich worlds of mathematical logic and Latin poetry. Had I been assigned Michel Foucault to read back then, I never would have made it through any of his books, never mind read them serially and with an eagerness that is more typical of the consumption of a fast-moving thriller.But that's exactly what happened when I was looking for a book about the prison system and a neighbor offered me the copy of Discipline and Punish on his bookshelf left over from his graduate school days. I devoured it, then went on to Madness and Civilization, The Order of Things & The Archaeology of Knowledge, Psychiatric Power, was put off by the turgid prose of Birth of the Clinic, but soon discovered Foucault's three volumes on sexuality, his final effort, half of the projected six volumes he had planned for the topic before he died in 1984.It wasn't all easy reading, of course. Very little of Foucault is. But I always find him engaging, stimulating and manage to stay with him, the reward being exciting insights into how the world we live in has come about, especially what it owes to the intellectual world of the Enlightenment and the one that preceded it—the Renaissance—their "epistemes," to use Foucault's word, the way they saw the world and the systems of knowledge they devised to explain and control it. They were worlds as alien and exotic to our own as anything that might walk off a spaceship ship from another galaxy, and yet also familiar by their cultural residues if only (but certainly not only) in our popular art and common assumptions—what we call "magic," e.g., actually the science of the pre-Enlightenment episteme.This was why as late as the mid-1600s a mind liked Newton's (if there ever has been such a thing as a mind "like" his) could occupy itself most of the time with alchemy and the study of ancient Hebrew. It was probably never clear to Newton that the revolution he was effecting was a contradiction of the thousands of years of "science" that preceded him. He believed that all he was doing was rediscovering truths that the ancient Greeks had postulated that had been lost, just as Aristotle's works were lost for more than a thousand years before being rediscovered at the end of the Middle Ages.Intellectual history was Foucault's bailiwick, specifically 18th-century France, what we have come to know as the Enlightenment. In school we were taught it was a period much akin to our own, a kind of proto-modern way of thinking, when real science got started and notions of democracy and economics came into being. All of which is true, but, as Foucault shows, not in the way we think, and different in ways that are very important. The Enlightenment had its own assumptions and prejudices and models that are almost as alien to what was to come later as were the assumptions of the models that preceded it for two thousand years.I should probably point out that I delight in finding that the received truth is, if not exactly the opposite of what we think, very different from it, whether it's the current unmasking of the vaporous frauds on which the world financial markets have operated for so many years or the exposure of common medical practices that cost so much and do so little for our health. Such unmaskings, slow at first, a few lone voices crying out that the accepted ideas or paradigms are really just conventions with no clothes on, only gradually become acceptable and even then only after the renegades have been roundly criticized or even persecuted: there really were no WMD despite the propaganda in the New York Times and the impassioned testimony at the UN of America's most respected public figure; Credit Default Swaps are no better than last month's lottery tickets; the sun does not revolve around the earth.By unearthing (he calls it archaeology) the origins and developments of the prison system, psychiatry and medicine generally and the other so-called social sciences, Foucault implicitly questions other precepts upon which our contemporary disciplines are founded. He reminds us of absurd notions we like to believe are peculiar to the unenlightened thinking of the past, even the not-so-distant past, such as the medical establishment's "discovery" of masturbation at the start of the 19th century, thanks to new observational practices developed as a means of controlling populations in prisons, schools and hospitals. Freud himself was under the influence of this medical witch hunt which lasted well into the 20th century. It was as if, as Foucault remarks, an epidemic of self-abuse had broken out across Europe at the close of the 18th century.Modern medicine would also rather not recall some of the silly—"silly" if they didn't ruin so many lives—other tenets and practices, such as bleeding for almost any condition, female clitorectomies (practiced mostly on white middle-class women, the class which has always been most medicalized), promoting the use of infant formula over mother's milk, etc. There are plenty of contemporary equivalents to these useless or harmful nostrums, but we accept them as good medical science, physicians and patients alike. We cooperate with them every time we pay a visit to the doctor.But for me Foucault's most fascinating subject is the pre-Enlightenment model of reality, the one that prevailed virtually unchallenged since the time of the Stoics, as meticulously constructed and rigorously practiced as anything that takes place in our own science labs. In this model the Creator passed on to Adam and Eve the language in which He himself thinks. It's not language in the narrow sense we understand that word, because every word in it embodies the reality, the essential truth, of the object it designates and, as it were, incorporates, so that to know the word is to know the very being of the thing—or person.The consequences for scholarship and knowledge generally to such a concept are profound. Because we no longer have access to the primal master language (thanks to the Tower of Babel) we are reduced to approaching the truth via the watered-down derivative tongues we now speak. Even classical Greek and Latin are pale substitutions. Our job—the job of intellectuals from antiquity to the mid-17th century—was to "divine" the lost meanings and forgotten truths—what today we would call scientific data—we knew once simply by knowing the original language of creation.This was what magic was about. Today the word means skillful allusion, a pretense for entertainment, turning handkerchiefs into doves and cutting pretty girls in half only to put them back together again. But, in the old days, two, three, five thousand years ago, great minds could piece together the lost remnants of the true language of God as well as read the "marks" he has embedded in his creation for our understanding. As a result, they believed they could manipulate reality the way we do chemicals in a test tube—turn not just handkerchiefs but people into birds, transform lead into gold, read the future in the stars, cure the sick, even raise the dead. More practically, they could curse their enemies in a way that went beyond mere vilification. If you knew someone's name, their real name, the word that contained their very being, you could—with the right verbal formula—kill them or at least make them very ill, a practice that goes back to the very beginnings of language, certainly written language, when the latter was the purview of a select elite.But the Creator did more than give man (and it was almost always "man," wasn't it) the true language. He also imbedded in his creation "characters" and "signs" that enabled the scientific whizzes of their day to understand how everything, literally every thing, in the universe was related to everything else and therefore how it could be manipulated, altered, transformed.We have our own received wisdoms and shibboleths that we accept as uncritically as did anyone in previous centuries, believing them to be based on good scientific evidence. To this day many of us seem to harbor a belief in the intrinsic value of gold, as the recent flight to that metal out of stocks and other less substantial financial instruments demonstrates. Is this so different from the Renaissance assumption that gold was inherently precious because God had created just enough of it to equal all the goods and services mankind would ever create? Is our current faith in more and more testing and aggressive treatment of patients (originally the word used for someone undergoing torture for the sake of discovering criminal truth), regardless of demonstrated risk and benefit, any better grounded than was the practice of bleeding and purging? Meanwhile, we still can't get doctors to wash their hands before examining patients in the hospital, a lack of hygiene that costs thousands of lives each year.The beauty of reading a scholar as astute as Foucault is not that he poses any of these questions himself. As I say, he pretty much sticks to his professional last. But, his "archaeology" of the development of intellectual thought from the early 17th century into the 19th, allows us to hold up a mirror to our own time. We, like the people of other centuries, think we pretty much have figured out what it's all about, apart from some tinkering around the edges—nailing down that pesky Unified Field Theory that has annoyed scientists ever since Einstein got a bee in his bonnet about it. The idea that our own science one day might be seen as flawed as that of the 17th century seems to us absurd. We are building, we believe, on hard-won truths, scientifically demonstrable truths, leaving nothing to speculation or faith. But Ptolemaic cosmology had seemed just as unshakably scientific, an elegant explanation for how the heavens revolve around the earth, cleverly explaining the odd backward and forward motion of the planets that seemed to contradict this hypothesis. It was such a rigorous piece of work that it lasted well over a thousand years and was discarded only with much reluctance and only after a good deal of persecution of those who contested it.Who are our own Ptolemies? Are they the scientific "studies" promising eternal life out of fish oil and statins? Are they those who affirm or those who deny global warming? Those who tell us our lives will be extended by their medicines and their machines or those who can demonstrate that longevity ultimately depends upon our socio-economic status and general satisfaction with life? Our own misguided scientists are operating within what we think of as the heart of orthodoxy. Which of them is actually telling us that the heavens revolve around the earth or that the cure for what ails us is a good bleeding?There are other kinds of anxieties and questions that reading Foucault or any other great scholar excites. But, if you're like me, you thrill at the prospect of unmasking an accepted falsehood and seeing the way toward a new truth—with the proviso that truth is "a hypothesis that has not yet been disproven." You not only weather the threat to the received orthodoxy but relish the intellectual vistas that take its place.

  • Hesham
    2019-05-27 10:27

    مطرقة فوكو ومطرقة قارئ فوكو - جدلية التشابك الهرمنيوطيقي السيد فوكو بارع جداً في الولوج الى هذا الكم المتراكم من الطبقات لما يـسمّى بالمعرفة ، حقيقة القراءة إلى فوكو مرهقة جداً ، الا انها رحلة تستحق هذا العناء . من خلال هذا النص التمست مايُعرف به فوكو عادة ألا وهي مطرقته النيتشوية . يقول فوكو في معرض اهتمامه بالفلسفة الهيدغرية و النيتشوية بأنه حاول أن يقرأ نيتشه بمفرده فلم ينجذب له وهو يقرأه بمفرده ولكن عندما مزجه بقراءة هايدغر معه صدم بهما فلسفياً ( والكلام هنا لفوكو). تتبع فوكو الأركيولوجي للمعرفة تظهر الانزياحات الدلالية والطفرات والتقلبات التي عرفتها ثلاث أوجه من حقول المعرفة تجاه الإنسان ، الا وهي فقه اللغة ، الاقتصاد السياسي ، وعلم التشريح ، تقدمات هائلة وانقلابات معرفية حصلت داخل هذه الأنظمة المعرفية أدت بالتالي إلى ظهور مايعرف بالإنسان ، ميشيل فوكو يتجشم العناء هنا عبر تتبع مصدر نشوء المعرفة (التي صنعت) مايعرف بالإنسان . النص الفوكوي مرواغ ولايرحم في لذاعته ، يرتكز على المفارقة كثيراً ، يؤكد القضية وينفيها في آن ، وفي هذا كما أرى يتجلى الدهاء الفوكوي حينما وظف لغته الضاجة بالمفارقة ليبّين أنه هذه المعرفة التي اختصت بادعاء معرفة الإنسان تكونت بشكل اعتباطي ، اعتباطية تنفي إدعاء وضعية هذه المعرفة . لا عجب إذن ان نرى ذلك التشابك بين المطرقة النيتشوية التي أراد لها فوكو أن تحطم صنمية هذا الفكر والمعرفة ، التفكيك الذي سيتيح للكينونة أن تنعتق من هذا الأسر لتعانق مفهوم كينونة اللغة كما نحتها هيدغر . ولكن لأن فوكو هو فوكو ، فلم يكتفي بأن جعل كينونة اللغة هي بيت الكينونة ، حيث إن اللغة أيضاً هي الأخرى ليست من ماهية متماهية مع كينونة الإنسان .، وهكذا فإن كانت اللغة في عصر من العصور كانت متشظية ألن يفظي ذلك الى اضمحلال الكينونة كمفهوم ؟ مطرقة فوكو إذن تحيل الإنسان الى عدم ، ولكنه عدم ذو طابع بنيوي مع طبيعة الكائن . إنها العدمية القادرة على إعطائنا إلماعة أكثر وضوحاً ومعرفة أكثر قرباً الى تلك الكينونة التاريخانية المرتمية في الزمانية والتي يحدها الموت من كل جانب .إن فوكو من حيث يظهر بأنه يتعانق مع الوجودية الهيدغرية ، فإنه يتفارق معها حينما يرى انه الكينونة في اللغة او مع اللغة هي ليست ذات طابع حميمي عاطفي ، تقوم فيها اللغة باحتضان الكائن وإنما هي ذات طبيعة استبدادية ، وطالما بقيت اللغة كذلك ذات طبيعية خطابية في أحياناً أو تمثيلية في أحياناً اخرى فإن الكائن في تشابكه معها لن تكون له القدرة على الانفكاك من قيدها وإنما سيكون مصيره الاضمحلال والذوابان لصالح استبدادهاإن التباحث والتجادل مع النص الفوكوي ، يحدث ثقوب غائرة في تلك الطبقة المعرفية التي تحيط بعقل القارئ ، حيث أنه نصه ليست مهمته تفكيك الرواسب وكسر الأصنام العقلية والفكرية ، النص الفوكوي ولأنه ذو طبيعية هرمنيوطيقية ، فإنه لايتوقف على تأويل نصه و المدونات التي يتعاطها وإنما يرتقى إلى أن يقوم (أي النص نفسه) بمهمة تأويل (معرفة) المتلقي للنص ، هذه التأويلية التي يضطلع بها النص تنفي عن نفسها الطابع القسري التعسفي ، إنما تؤكد في جانب على قابلية القراءة الفوكوية الهرمنيوطيقية المنزع على استقبالها هي لقراءات مختلفة ومتجادلة ومتصادمة ،وعلى الجانبالآخر تشدد على كون أن ماتحوزه الكينونة من (معرفة ) عن ذاتها ، قد لايكون أكثر من معرفة مختلقة ذات منشأ وأصل يتناسب مع ترتيبات معرفية وزمانية معينة أو أنظمة معرفية أو سياقات اجتماعية أو أوضاع ثقافية بذاتها ، وبذلك لاتعدو عن أن تكون سوى معرفة مُختلقة أشبه ماتكون بالوهم يحجب الكينونة عن ذاتها !

  • Robert
    2019-06-05 06:16

    As I read this unique study, I kept asking myself how I could reduce it to a meaningful comment. For some reason I came up with a thought that does not bear directly on Foucault's work but may have some relation to it.The thought was: Literature is that which otherwise would not be said.I turned this thought over in my mind and was not sure that I knew how I could contradict it and might possibly believe it. In fact, I am still wondering if I will use it as my motto instead of the one that appears at the top of this blog: Why pick up a pen if not to change the world?The point may be that there is in the world a division between two modes of speech: that which is utilitarian and that which is not. The utilitarian must be said. Pass me the salt. I need aspirin. Are you going my way? The gross national product is 14.5 trillion dollars. These are useful statements and need saying. Statements that do not need saying are everything we think about the world and cannot even express except indirectly, through stories, or poems, or plays. Now, as we know, literature originally was closely aligned with religion, as were all the arts, but Foucault pinpoints a 16th-18th century period in which the divinity of literature was cast aside, and the post-Renaissance rumble that came to be "life today" began expressing itself.He is not preoccupied with literature or its fate--I am-- but he pursues an analytic method that sidelines it in a curious and interesting way. He choses the word "archeology" advisedly. What he is looking for is a kind of sedimentary evidence of change that propelled us into the modern age, and he seeks to find it in odd pairings like grammar on the one hand and exchange on the other. His focus on grammar, and "speaking," is profoundly important to this study. The core insight here is that humankind experienced a shift through the Renaissance away from "likeness" to "representation." "Likeness" is a two thousand year old way of understanding the world. This is like that. This is similar to that. Therefore this and that are related. One can never fully abandon that mode of thought but thought itself is more ore less unlike anything. When we speak or write, we are using grammatical conventions to represent thought. Thought is faster that its written or oral expression; it is instantaneous and sometimes has to wait a long time for someone to give it grammatical form, which is merely a representation of thought, not thought itself. So words come to signify something and do so arbitrarily and in those 16th-18th centuries referred to above, we began to realize that there was no such thing as a universal grammar that expressed itself uniformly through all post-Babel languages. As economies burgeoned, we also faced a challenge we still have not mastered: what is the value of something? Is there a universal value? Gold, for instance? Silver? Not really. Think of going into your driveway and getting into a solid gold car. It would go nowhere, weighing too much. But if we perform two operations that Foucault attributes to the segment of human archeology on which he is focused, we can solve the problem of gold: first, we assign it mathematical values, and then we establish an order that encompasses these values. Again, this is imperfectly achieved even today, otherwise we would not have billionaires profiting from what are called exchange rate fluctuations. But we have moved from likeness--fool's gold to real gold--to representation grounded in the relative stability of mathematics and order.When I was in eighth grade I learned something called the "new math." I was taught that you could perform any mathematical operation on an other than decimal system. This proved abysmally pointless except that tonight I recall that our standard math is arbitrary, as is the grammar of one language versus another.This is a long, erudite, possibly correct book. Foucault has had his ups and downs as a socio-intellectual historian and philosopher. Without question, he has done his homework and there are ample instances of him supporting his thesis with myriad persuasive examples. His focus is not on literature. His focus is on explaining the zeitgeist that unified disparate disciplines in creating our analytic, empirically-based and yet highly relative and somewhat arbitrary modern world. He makes the point at the end, per Nietzsche, that we may wake up some day and be other than we are, throwing out all of our presuppositions, and establishing new methods for representing our thoughts, or our forms of knowledge.I tend to think he is right up to a point in this. When I publish this comment, it will be available worldwide. Very few people will read it, but still, those who do will be joining me in a global community that could conceivably chuck the nation state idea and turn its back on the idea of monetizing the air we breathe (carbon marketing) . . . or accept the idea of monetizing air. I don't know. What I do know is that there is a connection between those of us who read and think and my general reaction: Literature is that which otherwise would not be said. We did not need Foucault in a utilitarian sense, but we do need writers whose knowledge and curiosity are so great that the things about which we are both unaware and incapable of expressing do get said. That's literature, and ultimately it may change the world.

  • Suellen Rubira
    2019-06-05 04:07

    quando o pensador é didático ❤

  • Lobo
    2019-05-21 06:03

    Re-red. Doktorat in progress.

  • Angel 一匹狼
    2019-06-17 06:17

    Michel Foucault is doing something with words in this book, which is actually trying to make something that should be easy to understand (and explain) quite complicated to follow, as he creates "awesome" sentences that last for ages and paragraphs that defy the laws of mathematics and understanding of the way words can be put in order one after the other. Our friend Foucault has decided that explaining something in an easy to follow way is for people that don't really care about language, philosophy and the understanding of how the Western world has created itself as the time has advanced, with stops on how the people have explained to themselves and others different concepts, starting with the depiction of a picture from a Spanish painter which paints himself or maybe he doesn't or maybe he is painting the viewer to the most present obsession with man while touching on economy, the description of nature or animals, and some nice moments talking about paper money or Nietzsche. Some of his ideas get lost in his love for making extra-long sentences where he can congratulate himself with how smart he is and get the reader lost because it may necessary to stop once or twice to follow what he was saying two pages ago where he started a course of thought that maybe is not as clear as it should be, but, hey, this is an awesome book that plays beautifully with language and all these things we humans use when trying to understand each other and the world we live in. That doesn't mean to say that the reader won't learn anything from this book, but probably many will find themselves quite lost in it, while many others will be patting their backs as they think that following Foucault's ideas means they are very smart, which they may be, but this really doesn't matter, because whatever they understand of Foucault's ideas depends on constructions on language and things of the society they live in, and on the power relations, and the bio-power and all beautiful things we may pass hours talking about (again, they are actually quite interesting, but unnecessary to make them over-complicated when the idea behind them would be way easier to follow with a clearer explanation, which may or may not be forthcoming, but it is possible, as language, words and the construction of sentences depend on the writer, or the one that is saying the words, making it not as complicated for the reader to follow the sentences that have been written on paper ("paper" being just a way in which symbols explain a thing, constructs that we humans try to create to explain the world that surrounds us, because without language, which may be something we kind of are born with, as an organ, helps us to communicate with each other, some kind of evolution organ which explains why we learn how to talk with each other (or could just be that I'm trying to make this sentence extra long (which may have to do with the order of these brackets)))).Oh, yeah, and the way people (or men, as the books keeps saying) have understood things in Europe has changed a lot with the pass of time. And we are determined by the constructs (or deconstructs) all around us.You know, the order of things.Or words and things.3.5/10

  • James R. C.
    2019-06-15 03:14

    My examination of The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences produced personal findings of significance. I like order. My house is in order. Let's start with the basic codes "governing language, its schemas of perception, its exchanges, its techniques, its values, the hierarchy of its practice" (xx) in the dynamics of culture. According to Foucault, these provide order and the reflection of order in our experience. A level above resemblance is interpretive. In the signatory, a sign of resemblances such as a mathematical symbol (p: mathematical constant) provides a binary representation of significance, e.g., a calculation based on pi. Here is where my insight grew rapidly. "The double requisite is patent. There must be, in the representation, the perpetual possibility of imaginative recall" (69). I got the possibility of Other is not conscious contemporaneously, is becoming the same as himself and is no longer obscure space (328). Other comes into play. The unthought no longer eludes the man that had been striving to recover it. The Other, Distant is "the Near and the Same" in "an ever-to-be-accomplished unveiling of the Same" (328-340).

  • Kieran
    2019-05-21 08:15

    Though a difficult text to manage and ridden with complexity, points of internal anxiety, and even requiring some knowledge derived from elsewhere, Foucault's text is an excavation on the order of symbols and the categories of thought which the Classical era brought, especially to Western Europe. Rather than a direct, localised understanding of human history, Foucault's text serves to abstract and dissolve certain concrete concepts which are established within social convention and structure. By looking at several means of symbolism including the meaning implied by Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote", Foucault gives his archaeology of thought a certain cultural relevance, and a certain sense of humanity trying to reach beyond itself, into new symbols which defy the physical restrictions before it. His impetus, a certain undisclosed work by Jorge Luis Borges, is also very curious. A Spanish poet and novelist inspired by latent depth and complexity, and the work of the earliest and most pivotal philosopher of the enlightenment, Benedict de Spinoza, the intention running beneath the challenging text is quite clear: Foucault seeks like one of his several inspirations, Friedrich Nietzsche (the champion of freethinking in the nineteenth century), to uncover certain latent potentials underlying the rigid organisation of human thought.The text does not represent hypothesis as much as it does represent discovery, and Foucault keeps a consistent academic tone within his writing. His purpose is clear: to create a set of instruments and precise tools of criticism and thought for certain modes of thinking about knowledge as containment, knowledge as something quite distinct from actual human thought and understanding. Though Foucault's book is academic in tone, it's focus and aim are clearly social and in the interests of releasing certain folds of thought which are currently hidden by the apparent limitations of knowledge. As Foucault says, knowledge isn't for knowing, it is for cutting. The suggestion of the book is clear: that knowledge itself is not the relevant objective, or the categorisation or ordering of knowledge. Rather, Foucault desires to point to the origin of human thought, and the hidden areas of perspective, which he highlights in the field of psycho-analysis and ethnography. This book is of incredible value for people interested in understanding the underpinnings of knowledge and the way in which it is structured, and a good complement would perhaps be the work of Jorge Luis Borges, or even Gilles Deleuze who was a friend with similar objectives to Michel Foucault. Deleuze's texts, written with Felix Guattari, "Capitalism and Schizophrenia" are further insights into problems in scholarship, knowledge structuring, etc.

  • Kathleen
    2019-06-17 04:07

    The Order of Things is one of the less frequently read books of Foucault's. I can understand why, since it is long (~400 pages), and quite challenging to stick with. Foucault became a better writer throughout his career, so his later works are easier to read. However, this one is still rewarding.A lot of reviewers on here seem to think that the point of this book is that Foucault "doesn't like" the conventional periodization of history. Or, that Foucault wants to dispute where the modern/classical boundary is drawn. Personally, I think that to argue this is to miss the point of the book. Who cares about that? Certainly not Foucault.In this work, Foucault is centrally concerned with how, at any given time, what constitutes "knowledge" is determined. Foucault introduces the concept of the Episteme--which is not akin to "the spirit of the age" or any other Hegelian-esque essential spiritual content. Rather, the Episteme is the larger framework, the structuring pattern of thought with undergirds the discursive formations that constitute the fields of knowledge. In The Order of Things, Foucault asks if, within each Episteme, there is a structural similarity to the way we "know," even across disparate fields of knowledge.Of course, he finds that there are epistemic differences. And in the book he gives an account of the episteme of the Renaissance, the Classical Period, and the Modern Period. The final chapter of the book, in which he offers an account of the development of the "human sciences" and simultaneous emergence of "man" is fascinating and kind of a gesture to later works like Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality.Overall, it's a useful book if you're looking for an interesting theory of the cultural construction of knowledge. However, if you're looking for a periodization of history, this probably isn't the best place to look. Foucault, as always, seems to prioritize documenting systems of thought, over providing accurate histories.

  • Melani
    2019-06-10 06:14

    This is certainly not an easy read, and I have never read it cover to cover. That being said, it is worth digging into this dense terrain to unearth a few of Foucault's best moments. I shall quote a passage from the preface just to give you an idea:This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought -- our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and Other. This passage quotes a 'certain Chinese encyclopedia' in which it is written that 'animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.' In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.As the above passage demonstrates, Foucault is never short on examples, something many philosophers avoid as if a concrete example might sully their thoughts and force them into teaching at a community college. In addition to the Chinese encyclopedia, he also offers aphasiacs to illustrate the uneasiness that is felt when common and traditional classifications are destroyed, when we excavate the historical premises that give foundation to our human sciences. I'll stop with those two examples, though, because now that I have come back to this site, I'm dying to dig further.

  • Michael Burnam-Fink
    2019-06-12 10:12

    The Order of Things is Foucault at his most Foucauldian, a grand tour through the history of orderings, discourses, scientific methods, and ultimately Man Himself from the 16th century through the 19th century. He's at his best when he's making the incommensurable theological commentaries of the 16th century readable and relateable for modern eyes. His discussion of the rise of Classical era human sciences of difference, biology, economics, and philology, is deeply read and insightful. The conclusion is the radical claim that prior to the 19th century, Man did not exist as an element of analysis, and that modern (and post-modern) ways of knowing are in fact highly divergent from their predecessors.My problem is one of style. Clarity is not Foucault's thing, and I get that, but The Order of Things felt noticeably less clear than Discipline and Punish , The Birth of the Clinic, Madness and Civilization, or The History of Sexuality Vol. 1. The theory is thick here, the strands of argument tangled, and often for no apparent reason. My most common experience reading this was seeing a long series of negative statements ("The science of economics is not this, or this, or this...") that would take pages to resolve into an affirmative of what the thing is. The sentences are amazing: I took to reading them out loud like a Shakespearean soliloquy, and just admiring the rollicking flow of clauses and phrases. But at the end of one of these titanic discursive flows I'd be left with very little, just a philosophical laugh of "Lol wut?"Some ideas demand density in argumentation, and a lot of intelligent commentators have read very smart things into The Order of Things. But if every reader finds a different meaning, is there a text? Is there actually an order to things?

  • Elizabeth
    2019-06-13 05:14

    Oh, Foucault. It is impossible to deny his brilliance, yet at the same time difficult to feel like there's much to take from any one of his books that you haven't already gotten from another. I'm inclined, however, to think this isn't actually Foucault's fault, but is the fault of how he's taught. That is, most students first encounter him in the form of Discipline and Punish or the History of Sexuality, after which they are informed by their more "knowledgeable" professors about how these works fit into his larger project, and the ideas of structuralists/post-structuralist thinking writ-large. From here, it is nearly impossible to encounter Foucault without already feeling like you know his argument. Therefore, the best he can do is dazzle you with the breadth of his knowledge (which is particularly evidenced in this volume, as he somehow manages to chart the entire development of science). I would love to know more about *how* it was that Foucault wrote. Reading, you get the sense that the entire text was fully-formed in his head and that even his references may well have been quoted from memory. In any case, as I said earlier, there's not much new here, though probably more to cite for someone whose interests are history of science oriented. Also, unlike some of the aforementioned canonical Foucault, this is somewhat less accessible to a person who doesn't have a fairly firm grasp on the origins of Western civilization as the book moves so quickly through time and space that it's often difficult to keep up. But, the gist is easy enough to summarize: man, like everything else, is an historical construct. In particular, our idea of "man" as a scientific object is a product of the historical development of language, our relationship to labor and human economy, and the development of modern fields like biology and psychoanalysis.