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Michele Foucault's Philosophies?

What are some of the philosophies or beliefs of Michele Foucault?

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Let's look at some of the philosophies or beliefs of Michele Foucault.


1. What are some of the philosophies or beliefs of Michele Foucault?

Michel Foucault (1926 - 1984) has some basic philosophies or and beliefs about such things as the mechanisms of power, the nature of knowledge, the application of his ideas about knowledge to society, similar and differences to beliefs posited by Marxism, rejects Modernism and supports tenets of Constructionism and Postmodernism beliefs.

Yezzi (2001) provided an excellent outline of these basic philosophies and beliefs, from which the following is drawn. For example, let's look at some of these beliefs now:

1. Mechanisms of Power

a. Rejection of Traditionally Identified Mechanisms of Power - The primary and most forceful types of power do not arise through the efforts of strong willed individuals or the influences of the major social institutions or any social contract.
b. Infinitesimal Mechanisms of Power - Power arises through the multitudinous, usually unexamined rules that govern social interactions and thereby mold the bodies and minds of people.

o One must begin with the micro-mechanisms (capillaries rather than arteries) of power?the everyday influences that affect people in their daily lives?how the mechanisms of power are "invested, colonised, utilised, involuted, transformed, displaced, extended, etc." (P/K, p.99).
o Practices, not intentions, must be the subject of study.
o There is an elaborate network of rules that constitute the mechanisms of power.-

II. Philosophy of Knowledge

A. From the Preface of Foucault's The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences:

"This passage [in Borges] 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 find 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."

1. while most people would regard this classification of animals to be ludicrous, Foucault views it as an opportunity to recognize the limitations of our own classificatory system by which we would not think of this alternative.

2. While most people merely presume that their own presently accepted classification scheme represents an objective reality, there really are numerous alternative classification schemes.

3. A particular classification scheme really is a cultural code of interpretation, what Foucault usually calls "a discursive formation"?that is, a set of deep rules for ordering that is embedded in our language.

B. Archeology - During the earlier stages of his work, the resurrection (deconstruction) of a discursive formation is a task of "archeological" reconstruction, where one studies historically the remains of the past to find out how a culture came to develop a particular system of classification.

1. People are generally unaware of the ways cultural power molds their systems of thought and behavior, hence the need for archeology.

2. A particular discursive formation could be archeologically resurrected in isolation, rather like the study of a paradigm.

C. Genealogy - During later stages of his work, Foucault turned more toward what he called a "genealogical" approach (a borrowing from Nietzsche), paying attention to transitional transformations as well.

D. Rejection of Global Theories and Resurrection of Subjugated Knowledges - What mainly characterizes contemporary critiques of knowledge is the rejection of global theories of explanation (as provided by, say, Marxism or psychoanalysis) that have represented the goal of knowledge traditionally. This rejection parallels his claims for studying micro-mechanisms of power. Ideology also is associated with global theories. This rejection of globalism then makes possible a return to more localized (decentralized) kinds of knowledge, what Foucault calls "subjugated knowledges."

1. Traditionally, subjugated knowledges have been "buried and disguised in a functionalist coherence of formal systemization" (P/K, p. 81)

2. There are "naïve" or "popular" knowledges that have been "disqualified as inadequate" in the hierarchy of knowledge traditionally.

3. Genealogies provide a way of revealing the struggles of subjugated knowledges. They bring forth "the claims to attention of local, discontinuous, disqualified, illegitimate knowledges against the claims of a unitary body of theory which would filter, hierarchies and order them in the name of some true knowledge and some arbitrary idea of what constitutes a science and its objects" (P/K, p. 83).

4. These genealogies amount to "anti-sciences," in contrast with traditional divisions of knowledge.

5. Example from Foucault: Whereas prison theorists are concerned with the motivations of criminals and how they can change them to rid the world of criminality, the actual ...

Solution Summary

Through discussion and examples, this solution provides a comprehensive overview of the philosophies or beliefs of Michele Foucault.