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Lecture 9

SOC483Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Israelites, A Priori And A Posteriori, Soltyrei


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC483Y1
Professor
Vanina Leschziner
Lecture
9

Page:
of 7
SOC483Y1Lecture 9 November 9
- Look at the titles- ―The Order of Things‖
- Thing- anything, umbrella term, has an order
- To be a thing is to have order
- As we are self-conscious things we desire order in chaos
- Foucault not trying to create an order, no a better order but explains how things
through history have been ordered
- How different disciplines in human sciences have emerged from different
paradigms of thinking
Preface
- Ancient Chinese encyclopaedia- due to our different paradigm we may think that
topic is silly
o Mythical and real on the same playing field ordered through language
(Ancient Chinese)
Botany
o Plants- inner workings revealed with more advanced technology, see the
hidden important functions calling into question paradigms of thinking
- Shift in human sciences, stress on language, development of language to
development of botany, biology, anatomy = sociology
- Point of reading show how different principles have emerged out of completely
separate paradigms of thinking, leading us to evolve our way of thinking, ordering
of world in more complex manner than previous
Michel Foucault, “Preface,” selections from “Classifying,” chapter 5 and “The Limits of
Representation,” chapter 7 in The Order of Things (Vintage Books, 1970), pp. xv-xxiv, 128-138,
157-162, 226-232.
Foucault 1926-1984 French post structuralism professor of the history of systems of thought
Wrote several books on the history of several things
- Many varied topics
- Influenced by structuralists, existenalism, Marxism (the two latter he turned away from)
- He was critical of what he saw as the centralization of the subject in lots of French
philosophers
- Centralization of the subject- that man was the centralization of any topic Foucault
does not talk about the individual, systems of thought yes but not people
- He was interested in studying people at the margins (homosexual, mental asylums) he
was an activist too
- See connection with Fleck- in explanation of ideas- Fleck focused on one science, one
problem, Foucault has a more wide ranging explanation, similar to Fleck you see history
of science as discontinuity, not a progression and marked instead by breaks. He
incorporated this from many French historians
- This reading is an early work of Foucault 1966 this is why it is different from his other
work.
- Foucault developed two methodologies this book is the prime example of the
archaeological method
1. Archaeology learning something about one specific moment in time, put objects
together to make sense of a given social group, how things were done, what they ate
how they lived…
2. Genealogy
Foucault was interested in questioning accepted knowledge his interests shifted…
early on developed archaeological approach- he could study the structure of knowledge
at a given time thinking of what archaeology entails helps to understand. We may find
disparate objects, Foucault finds different ways of examining knowledge! When
combined we can say something about the way of thinking at that time.
- Foucault shifts a lot between time periods- does not say why we move from one
way of thinking to the other…
- We can compare structures of time periods but does not explain how we move
- The genealogical method helps explain this from Nietchien to help explain how
things change over time- he took from Nietchizen that history is contingent…
With this method Foucault developed a way for uncovering the causes of
transition, it is understood history is complex, concepts may be contingent and
mundane but they can be uncovered with the genealogical method this differs
from any grand sense taken on by someone
Foucault’s book Discipline and Punishment is a transitional method from archaeology
to genealogy
―The Order of things‖ an archaeology of the human sciences
A priori way of thinking- structures of thinking that govern our ideas and the things we
will attend to… given the way of thinking at a given time will pay more or less attention
to certain scientists
Foucault uses many human scientists- language, history, economics, nature different
from Fleck who wanted a particular phenomenon in a particular science Foucault finds
similarities across sciences. What explains this is the a priori ideas!
Episteme- we are not aware of these things structuring our way of thinking- structures
that exist at a given time or place that governs that science- it is nothing concrete, it is
not a set of ideas determines possibility of what is thinkable if we think things are
opposite, we will look for relations of opposition, certain things will be unthinkable
condition of possibility of thinking at a certain time. The episteme is more encompassing
than a thought style, it can be traced across many disciplines! It is about how we
classify things! Things can be the study of man, plants, words, economy etc. How
phenomenon are classified- in the archaeological method Foucault finds whatever thing
we are talking about, those things that people studied were classified in a similar way,
people looked for same kinds of relationships between things
A worldview entails ideas, moral principles, ethic principles, beliefs in different forces,
the episteme is not about any content, that is why if we look at study of language,
plants, animals, economy we would find the same episteme- Foucault can look at that in
16th century and early 17th and find same episteme but changes in classical age
different disciplines with same patterns
Foucault would say that it is not that science is an episteme, we can look at biology ,
sociology where people use similar ways to organize phenomenon
Ex. Study- East- more holistic and look to collective, students in the West look for one
thing to explain founded on the individual rather than the general system… Foucault
would say this is characteristic of episteme: choosing food, talking about family, always
drastic difference in explanation!
Foucault defines episteme is the rules that govern discursive formations, they are
systems of thought and knowledge and they are systems of conceptual possibilities that
define boundaries of thought.
o Rules that govern discursive formations- the signs, it is a system of
thought or apparatus
o Concept of possibility- condition of possibility, episteme shows how far
thinking can go, the boundaries of what is possible at a given time more
than any specific concrete content meaning the way we can classify
things
o Conceptual not in sense of concept- but rather what can be conceived
- We have been talking about the necessity of classifying things (Mary Dougals,
Levi Strauss- Douglas says it is irrelevant how we classify, we just need to
classify and order) this resonates with how Foucault starts the book with fictional
example from the Chinese!
o Chinese example why? it makes no sense, the point of it is 1) the need
to order things, desperate attempt in whatever way, all sorts of categories,
hard to understand because no underlying logic of this classification of
animals, the point is that we need to classify things and we do this with a
certain logic!
o Logic- there is a criteria, rationale, a lens we are wearing to classify things