Monday, September 07, 2015

One late scholastic philosopher disparaging another, neither of them capable of leaving behind their claims to authority; neither capable of choosing to be (emulate) Euripides, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare etc. Better to be an ex-philosopher/theologian flirting with nihilism than a playwright or a lawyer (better my sister in a whorehouse than my brother on a rice burner). What's left is precocious, gamey immaturity. And in the last paragraph -I remember pulling my hair out 30 years ago- the explicit conflation of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, humanism and science.  Without that it all falls apart, for both Foucault and White. Fucking frogs. Fucking college professors. What fucking idiocy.

Hayden White, The Content is the Form  5."Foucault's Discourse: The Historiography of Anti-Humanism"
The work of Michel Foucault, conventionally labeled as Structuralist but consistently denied by him to be such, is extraordinarily difficult to deal with in any short account. This is not only because his oeuvre is so extensive but also because his thought comes clothed in a rhetoric apparently designed to frustrate summary, paraphrase, economical quotation for illustrative purposes, or translation into traditional critical terminology.

In part, the idiosyncrasy of Foucault's rhetoric reflects a general rebellion of his generation against the clarté of their Cartesian heritage. Against the Atticism of the older tradition, the new generation is adamantly "Asiatic." But the thorniness of Foucault's style is also ideologically motivated. His interminable sentences, parentheses, repetitions, neologisms, paradoxes, oxymorons, alternation of analytical with lyrical passages, and combination of scientistic with mythic terminology- all appear to be consciously designed to render his discourse impenetrable to any critical technique based on ideological principles different from his own. [He can undermine but can't escape, so he plays the court jester]

It is difficult, however, to specify Foucault's own ideological position. [Ignore original intent; read the words. It's a book not an equation] If he detests liberalism because of its equivocation and service to the social status quo, he also despises conservatism's dependence on tradition. And although he often joins forces with Marxist radicals in specific causes, he shares nothing of their faith in science. The anarchist Left he dismisses as infantile in its hopes for the future and at in its faith in a benign human re. His philosophical position is close to the nihilism of Nietzsche. His discourse begins where Nietzsche's. in Ecce Homo, left off: in the perception of the "madness of all "wisdom" and the "folly" of all "knowledge." But there is nothing of Nietzsche 's optimism in Foucault. His is a chillingly clear perception of the transiency of all learning, but he draws the implications of rho perception in a manner that has nothing in common with Nietzsche's adamantine rigor.

And this because there is no center to Foucault's discourse. It is all surface—and intended to be so. [A novelist would describe the emotions, desires, needs; the unity and depth would be in description, with no need to hide contradictions behind slippery  language, no need for evasion] For even more consistently than Nietzsche, Foucault resists the impulse to seek an origin or transcendental subject that would confer any specific meaning on existence. Foucault's discourse is willfully superficial.  [He's a philosopher and a Catholic, his Cartesian heritage; he needs to be right] And this is consistent with the larger purpose of a thinker who wishes to dissolve the distinction between surfaces and depths, to show that wherever this distinction arises it is evidence of the play of organized power and that this distinction is itself the most effective weapon power possesses for hiding its operations.

The multifold operations of power are, in Foucault's view, at once most manifest and most difficult to identify in what he takes to be the basis of cultural praxis in general, namely, discourse. Discourse is the term under which he gathers all of the forms and categories of cultural life, including, apparently, his man efforts to submit this life to criticism. Thus envisaged. and as he himself says in The Archeology of Knowledge (1969), his own work is to be regarded as "a discourse about discourse" (205). It follows, then, that it if we are to comprehend his work on its own terms, [You can't; you should see his work in the context of the world] we must analyze it as discourse—and with all the connotations of circularity, of movement back and forth, that the Indo-European root of this term (kers) and its Latinate form (dis-, in different directions," + currere, "to run", suggest. [Cutesy scholasticism] Accordingly, I have sought entry into the thicket of Foucault's work [trying to understand Manet by painting a bad Manet] and, I hope, a way out of it by concentrating on its nature as discourse. [You're going to try to beat him at his own game because that's somehow more respectful; biographers want to kill their subjects]

My approach will be generally rhetorical, and my aim will be to characterize the style of Foucault's discourse. I think we will find a clue to the meaning of his discursive style in the rhetorical theory of tropes. This theory has served as the organizing principle of Foucault's theory of culture, and it will serve as the analytical principle of this essay. Briefly I argue that the authority of Foucault's discourse derives primarily from its style (rather than from its factual evidence or rigor of argument); that this style privileges the trope of catachresis in its own elaboration; and that, finally this trope serves as the model of the world-view from which Foucault launches his criticism of humanism, science, reason, and most of the institutions of Western culture as they have evolved since the Renaissance.
Rebelling against Daddy but having defined yourself as rebelling against Daddy, needing a Daddy to fuck you in the ass for rebelling.

repeats, repeats, repeats, A philosophy professor reviews a book by a historian for the NDPR
Overall, Seaford’s book is interesting, insightful, and combines expertise in ancient sources with careful reasoning. It certainly offers an invaluable discussion of the origins and cultural contexts of early Greek philosophy. But Seaford’s concern with the historical explanations of Greek philosophy suggests that his book may not appeal to scholars interested exclusively in the philosophical content and argumentation of Presocratic texts. The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors (219; 253–4; 273). In fact, he insists that comprehending the relevant cultural factors is necessary for understanding Presocratic metaphysics. We must, he maintains, avoid treating ancient philosophy as if it were created in a “historical vacuum” (10), even if this threatens most Presocratic scholars’ “control of their subject and the autonomy of ’doing philosophy’“
We must, I maintain, avoid treating contemporary theory as if it were created in a “historical vacuum”

I forgot, Halperin wrote a book on Foucault.

I'd never be so insulting towards writing that didn't claim to be more than writing, but theory wants to be seen both as art and as better than art. 

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