Foucault's Archaeology

Foucault's Archaeology: Science and Transformation

David Webb
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Foucault's Archaeology
    Book Description:

    David Webb reveals the extent to which Foucault's approach to language in The Archaeology of Knowledge was influenced by the mathematical sciences, adopting a mode of thought indebted to thinkers in the scientific and epistemological traditions. By aligning his thought with the challenge to Kantian philosophy from mathematics and science in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, he shows how Foucault established his own perspective on the future of critical philosophy.Key Features: Sheds new light on a crucial period of Foucault's workHighlights Foucault's relation to thinkers such as Cavailles and Serres

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3038-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The Archaeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucault is a book that presents a number of challenges. Most obviously, it introduces a lot of new terminology and makes many methodological distinctions, and for this reason presents a certain technical difficulty. However, there are other reasons. First and foremost, it addresses a specific problem that is not really explained in the book itself, concerning how thought in late modernity has responded to the impasse that Foucault describes in the final chapters of The Order of Things, and which hinges on the finitude of man. My first aim in this book is to...

    (pp. 5-38)

    In The Order of Things, Foucault recounts how, in his view, thought in modernity has run into something of a dead end. Different branches of enquiry are held within a structure which ensures that each alone is necessarily incomplete, or which commits them to tracking an origin that moves continually beyond reach. At the heart of this diagnosis of the condition of thought in modernity lies the figure of man, and in particular of the finitude of man.¹ The Order of Things famously closes with the suggestion that man, this pivotal figure in the drama of modernity, may be a...

    • PART I: Introduction
      (pp. 41-47)

      Historical accounts can be pitched at different levels and these will generally change at different rates. ‘Deeper’ strata, such as the histories of sea routes or crop rotation, move more slowly than the ‘surface’ histories of governments and wars, and this means that different kinds of methodological questions are asked. A concern with how to establish causal sequences or whether totalities can be defined from a nexus of relations gives way to questions over what type of strata should be isolated for study, and the periodisation that should be adopted (AK 4, 10). While the focus in history was moving...

    • Part II: The Discursive Regularities
      (pp. 48-84)

      In this first chapter Foucault sets out a series of methodological decisions that inform the analyses to come, outlining his conception of discourse and the idea of the statement that will be central to much of what follows. The unities to which the title of the chapter refers are those around which historical studies were, and still are, commonly based, and which in Foucault’s view have been accepted at the cost of reinforcing the constraints from which thinking in modernity has struggled to escape. Archaeology, it is intended, will break them down to reveal their construction and transformation, exposing to...

    • Part III: The Statement and the Archive
      (pp. 85-119)

      The chapter begins with Foucault making sure that the reader is still on board, and that the risks of so being have been accepted. Again, he recalls that his aim is to redescribe the traditional unities of historical analysis that have been treated as somehow necessary or self-evident, and to stop looking for the ground of discourse either in a priori knowledge or in experience. Discourse, then, is not the signification of what is, and its rules of formation do not follow the outline of some deeper ontological truth. Yet neither is it grounded in the speaking subject. All aspects...

    • Part IV: Archaeological Description
      (pp. 120-151)

      Foucault writes that his aim has been to develop a method that is ‘neither formalizing nor interpretative’ (AK 151, 177). In steering a path between structuralism and hermeneutics, he is implicitly following the programme for historical analysis that Serres proposed in 1961.³⁰ But he is gripped by the doubt that the weighty apparatus he has put in place has served only to conceal that the form of analysis he proposes in fact remains within the framework of the history of ideas. Having set out the archaeological method, its terms and structures, Foucault therefore turns to consider what it means for...

    • Part V: Conclusion
      (pp. 152-158)

      The Conclusion to the book takes the form of a series of responses by Foucault to objections that he could anticipate, and no doubt some which had already been made. In the main he takes the (staged) opportunity to step back and provide a more strategic view of what he aimed to achieve, to reiterate a few key points, and to try one last time to head off misinterpretations.

      Foucault makes the point that suspending the category of the subject in no way suppresses individuality beneath a universal form of discourse, not least because the forms of discourse that he...

    (pp. 159-165)

    The Archaeology of Knowledge begins with a review of methodologies adopted by contemporary historical writing, but it quickly becomes clear that this is part of a far bigger concern. As in much of Foucault’s writing, a meticulous attention to the detail of history is accompanied by an aspiration to change not just what is thought but the terms or conditions in which thought takes place. To appreciate the aims of this book, one therefore has to consider the currents of history in which it moves, and these are defined above all by the problem to which it responds. As I...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 166-173)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 174-177)
  11. Index
    (pp. 178-184)