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Hans Sluga on Michel Foucault

Autobiographical notes from Professor Sluga's departmental website: I was born and grew up in Germany and though I have lived since then in the English-speaking world I remain considerably influenced by German culture and thought. Through an early education in the classical languages I became interested in philosophy (both ancient Greek and German). I initially […]

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"I have come too early, my time is not yet."
Our show today has a certain Nietzsche and untimeliness about it, if only because it's long overdue.
Many of you listeners have been lobbying for a show on Michel Foucault since the start of this program back in 2005,
and it's hard to believe we've gone this long without doing one.
But the moment has finally come, Hans Slougat, the William and Trudy,
al-Sfahi Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley, has graciously accepted my invitation to come down from Berkeley and share his views on Foucault with us today.
Professor Slougat has an impressive academic profile, which will be posting on our web page,
and I have long been an admirer of his style of philosophical thinking, which is his store assist in the best Foucaultian sense of the term.
Professor Slougat is currently teaching a course on Foucault at UC Berkeley with over 100 students enrolled in it.
Hans, welcome to the program.
Thank you very much. Happy to be here.
And thanks for taking the time to join us all the way from Berkeley here in the studios of KZSU.
I figured that if I'm going to do a show on Foucault, it really should be with someone from UC Berkeley, because Berkeley is an institution that Foucault was closely associated with before he died in 1984, and it boasts of several eminent scholars and philosophers who have in one way or another appropriated Foucault's legacy and carried it forward in interesting directions.
And in addition to yourself, I'm thinking of your colleagues, Bert Dreyfuss and Paul Rabano, Leo Bercani, Judith Butler, Karen Feldman and others.
So, Hans, in your bio note on the faculty page, you write the following, "My overall philosophical outlook is radically historicist.
I believe that we can understand ourselves only as beings with a particular evolution and history.
For this reason I have been drawn to the work of Nietzsche and Foucault, I am doubtful of the possibility of an A priori philosophizing.
In consequence, I feel attracted to a realist and naturalistic view of things rather than any sort of formalistic rationalism."
So, I guess I'd like to begin with a simple question whether you do indeed consider yourself a Foucaultian.
I take this with a grain of salt. Foucault represents many things and can only kind of only respond to a few of those.
One thing that struck me when I met Foucault in the early 80s when he started to come to Berkeley was the versatility of the man.
Here was somebody who was a true scholar. He spent much of his time in the library, but he was also a worldly man very much politically engaged.
And recently I began to sort of tabulate all the topics that he had been interested in over in his lifetime.
I ended up with something like 12, 13, 14 very different topics, everything from the madness and the asylum to the birth of modern medicine, structure of modern knowledge, the prison system and disciplinary society, power, sexuality,
and the emergence of the modern subject. So, multiplicity of diverse subjects which he brought together and I found that very exciting to pursue, but I myself only take up some of these trends.
Sure. But his stories is approach to philosophy. You say radical his stories. That has characterized your work from the beginning I gather.
Absolutely. So, I originally worked on the history of modern logic. Always with this idea that we shouldn't take logic to be this timeless truth, but rather a structure that has itself a history to behind it, that we must understand, we must see why logic has come to have this absolutely central place in a lot of philosophizing today.
So, that was one aspect of my interest. Then I turned to the question of the philosophers engagement with politics and how problematic that can be in often is. Now, difficult that is.
And I try to look at this by thinking about the German philosophers in the Nazi period, particularly about Heidegger, of course, but there were many others.
So, I try to look at this whole field and see how and why they engaged themselves politically and what they had meant.
And now I'm trying to move in a more even more coherent direction and asking, asking, how do we need to think about politics today? Why do we need to reconceive what politics is all about? And I want to go beyond for Cohen in this respect.
So, Paul, draw on him, but go beyond him at the same time.
That's great. And I'm expecting that we will talk about how we go beyond Foucault once we kind of reconstruct a little bit.
The importance of Foucault, who in 2007, was the most cited scholar in all of the humanities, at least in the United States.
So, he thought has been extremely consequential in many very disciplines.
So, for those listeners of ours who don't have a strong sense of Foucault's career as a whole, can we just go through it very briefly and if you could highlight things that you think are most important?
Yes. So, the first thing to talk about is perhaps that he himself resisted this idea that could pin him down and identify him as a philosopher engaged in a particular gender.
There's a wonderful quote from the archaeology of knowledge from 1971, where he said, "Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. Leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order."
So, refuse identification. Nevertheless, I mean, he was a philosopher with a life experience with a...
Development which started in France. He was brought up in classical French philosophical environment where Hegel and Sartre and Heidegger were central figures, Nietzsche, much lesser.
He discovered Nietzsche, became a Nietzschean and eventually became one of the great lights of French academic philosophy.
He became a professor at the College of France in 1971, which is the most distinguished academic institution in Paris.
He was also a very worldwide open philosopher. He traveled to Japan, Brazil, particularly to the United States. He came to Stanford, of course, and gave a famous lecture here and came frequently also, of course, to Berkeley.
So, he represented French philosophy as "At its Best." He was also a public figure, particularly the 1970s, very much politically engaged in many causes.
And so, that made him also a recognizable person outside the academy.
So, you say... I mean, you quoted there about... He didn't want to be true to himself. He's always changing.
So, he refuses identification, maybe the principle of identity. However, is it not the case that almost all of his thinking from the first history of madness to the end, well, maybe not so much the history of sexuality, but so much of it deals with the birth of modernity where it's a massive, either archaeological or genealogical analysis of the 17th and 18th centuries and perhaps 19th centuries.
But primarily, the so-called age of reason, he was true to himself to the end about seeing in that period some of the fundamental phenomena that would then characterize the modern period.
Yes, that's certainly true. So, I wanted to share with you, and you hear us a second quote.
So, the first one I gave you was from 1971, when he said, "Don't pin me down." At the end of his life in 1984, in the preface to the use of pleasure, he wrote in a different tone, and I think it's very important to see what. He says there is irony in those efforts one makes to alter one's way of looking at things.
To change the boundaries of what one knows and to venture out of ways from there, did mine actually result in a different way of thinking? Perhaps at most, they made it possible to go back to what it was already thinking, to think it differently, and to see what I had done from a new vantage point and in a clearer light.
Sure, of having traveled far one finds that what is looking down on oneself from above. And so he recognizes himself now looking back this unity in his thinking, looking at the same issues in a new way.
That reminds me of Zarathustra, on his mountaintop, looking down. He has things, yeah.
So he looks at his past as a unity, and I guess one question we could ask is whether Foucault had a traditional French philosophical mind in the sense that he was looking for unity, even where he found all sorts of incongruities, discontinuities and so forth.
He was a thinker of the larger picture, not in the Hegelians, necessarily, but he did not ever lose sight of the whole.
Yes, so particularly, of course, in this early phase of work represented by his studies of madness and medicine and the history of modern science, history of modern knowledge.
He looks at the modern period and he sees it as a series of ages that are closed upon themselves. So he speaks about the Renaissance, the classical age, the modern age, and each one is supposed to have its identity represented by what he calls an epistemic, a certain kind of conceptual framework.
Later on in the archaeology of knowledge shortly after this period, he begins to question this and he says we must suspend and set aside all these great continuities and ask from where they come, whether they are justified.
So he is both, I want to say, a philosopher of continuity and of discontinuity.
May I ask whether you believe that statement that you quote in the archaeology of knowledge or later that he was under pressure from his readers and critics to the effect that you, Michel Foucault, you're describing these periods, the Renaissance, the classical age, and modernity, and each one has their own epistemic, but you don't have any theory to account for why one gives way to the other or there's a transmutation.
And did he feel under the pressure to change his approach or his methodology in order to, if you go from an archaeology of these eras or these periods to a genealogy in the Nietzsche-in-sense, because a genealogy would enable him to answer those critics who said that he did not have a theory of historical transformation.
That certainly a major factor in his development. In the early work, he brackets out this question of why do these ages give way to new ages?
He just says he's describing simply the internal structure and he's pointing out that there are these periods or these moments of transformation, but he's not trying to explain why this happens.
Then he comes to see that this is really La Cunar. He needs to say something about this, and at this point it's this notion of power that enters.
That is at the same time, however motivated that shift by a geopolitical engagement, so we have now reached the late 1960s in his work.
He is drawn into the turmoil that is characterized by the student revolution in France and the general political upheavals, but of course also by the Antivietnam movements in this country, the culture or a revolution in China, so it's a period of political turbulence and he is drawn to this, and this also kind of motivates him to think about power.
When he shifts that emphasis to power, because he's in France, his importance as I gather is that he is someone who thought about the constitution of subjectivity and he was not a subjectivist.
He did not buy into either the Sartrian strong subject or the Hegelian notion of subjectivity.
So his historical archaeology showed that the subjectivity was something that was constituted historically is not a given, and that somehow then he shifts the emphasis from a subject to power.
Is that over simplifying?
No, he will shift towards the discussion of the subject, so the subject hasn't really been discussed at all so far in his development.
So not when he says at the end of man or at the end of his book, Le Moil is shows that the era of man is over and it's not going to leave a trace, you would distinguish that from the subject.
Well, it's meant to say that this period of the classical of the modern age in which the Kant and the Kantian tradition sought in terms of an empirical and transcendental subject or in-room at once is already over and he's not operating within that.
He is operating rather as a critic of this period, but he's writing this book.
So he's not positively concerned with the subject certainly and now comes this period of power and I think that one reason maybe why in France this is less of a theme than it is in America is that the French still think of power in terms of their political institutions of the state, the state is still a very solid organization in France.
And the essential element in co-stinging about power is precisely to say institutions are really secondary to relations of power which are multiple and multifold, they form networks, sometimes they crystallize out into institutions, but the institutions are products of power relations rather than institutions controlling power.
And so he's really turning an archetypal French view of politics upside down, what could say, and it's a view which in America I think is much more comprehensible because we are so uncertain about our institutions have become so, what does it say?
And we've been from the start a little bit suspicious of state power at the federal level.
So I hear what you're saying that the shift that its power exceeds its institutional forms and it's not to be reduced to or identified with the state because the state is a crystallization of a constellation of a certain kind of power.
But there's a whole network of power relations that sub-ten and go beyond.
Is the kind of thinking that identifies power with the state and institutions too in that sense, subjectivistic insofar as it's based on theories of sovereignty that he speaks in many texts about the way a concept of sovereignty can only go so far when it comes to understanding the exercise of power.
The discourses of power now.
Yes, so he sees a kind of early modern form that power takes in the absolute state and its sovereign rulers.
And he thinks we then begin to identify power with this kind of structure where power emerges from these, seems to emerge from these great individuals who rule over us.
But he thinks this is only one historical form that power takes. It can take many different forms.
The Nietzschean one of war of everybody against everybody is another one.
For instance.
And I'm reading here from his interview that's translated as Truth and Power that he gave in '77 to the two Italian scholars who ask him about the notion of repression.
And there he says that the notion of, I'm quoting Foucault, the notion of repression is quite inadequate for capturing what is precisely the productive aspect of power.
In defining the effects of power as repression one adopts a purely juridical conception of such power.
One identifies power with a law which says no.
Now, I believe that this is a wholly negative narrow skeletal conception of power. One which has been curiously widespread.
If power were never anything but repressive it, if it never did anything but say no, do you really think anyone would be brought to obey it?
What makes power hold good? What makes it acceptable is simply the fact that it doesn't only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things.
It induces pleasure, forms of knowledge, produces discourse.
It needs to be considered as a productive network which runs through the whole social body.
Can you elaborate a little bit on this notion of a productive power which is not just the power of repress repression?
So, as long as you think about power coming from the institutions and being created by the institutions, the closest thought then would be the institution uses its power to control individuals and to regulate them and repress them in some fashion.
For instance, in judicial processes but also in process of domination and exploitation.
Once you turn this around and you start saying that the institutions themselves are produced by power, then of course you already recognize the productive force of power.
I mean, it can generate these very complex, monarchical and republican structures of the modern state.
So it is in that sense also something productive rather than repressive repression is only one of the possible ways in which power can manifest itself.
So the empirical historians, at least something that I know, will ask the naive question which is, well, if power isn't identified with the institutions or the state or if the state institutions are the product of a productive power, what do you, Michel Foucault,
or what do you mean by power?
I don't like to ask that question because I think it's reducted and it already pre-determed the kinds of answers you can get to that question.
But is power in Foucault's thinking in this period of his career something that if ever you give it a face or if ever you give it a definition, if you give it, if you localize it, then it's no longer where power because power always has to have the power.
It always has to have this, what Heidegger would call this withdrawing dimension, this hidden, it has to hide itself or incorporate itself in a way that you can't actually trace its boundaries.
Well, I would resist this kind of Heideggerian reading of power is something hidden behind the facade of beings.
It's certainly true that Foucault never gives us a definition of power. In fact, he rejects this demand for such a definition or a theory of power.
What he does tell us is that power is some aspect of an inherent quality of our social relations and of those social relations, that's the closest he gets to a characterization of those closest relations,
which are relations of mobility and inequality.
He thinks these are everywhere in our relationships, personal relationship, institutional ones, academic relationships, knowledge relationships, economic relationships, all exemplify this multiplicity of these mobile relations of inequality by which we bear on each other in multiple ways, of course.
Would it be fair to say, Hans, that he Foucault thinks of power in terms of domination principally?
Domination is certainly one of the possibilities of it, but he gives us this very interesting exemplification of a different kind of power, saying we shouldn't think of these relationships as hierarchical, they may sometimes be, but it may very well be that in one respect I succeed in our social interaction to exercise power over you,
but in another respect at the same moment you exercise power over me, and so it is kind of a network, a web of relationships in which we find ourselves, and not simply a hierarchical downward's relation of power coming from above, from the powerful and dominating the powerless.
Would that be the reason why he asks with great seriousness whether the Hobbesian notion of the war of all against all is not a good model for thinking of how power operates in the larger social body?
Yes, that's also distorting because it takes one possible kind of exemplification of power and tries to essentialise it basically.
What I find very compelling is an analysis, Foucault's analysis was a particular form of power that I'd like to ask you about, which is bio power.
And his investigation into the birth of certain institutions like the prison and the way in which surveillance in the actual new technologies of surveillance and the relay of observation,
the examination of either the psychiatric patient or the examination of the physical patient, the gathering of knowledge, data on individuals,
and then, you know, population studies so forth, that something is born in the modern era where the life in whether it's at the individual or the collective level is subjected now to at least
technologies of power that he called bio power which have to do with observation examination and administration.
This seems very concrete to me.
Okay, we need to go one step back in this.
So when he speaks about power, power, relations, he says that these relations can crystallise out in different structures at different historical moments.
So in modern early modernity, we have the absolute state and its southern rulers as the model that formed that power relations take in the state.
But after the French Revolution, with the French Revolution, it kind of change happens and the state organises itself in a new fashion.
What emerges is a state that is ruled by laws, by rules, by bureaucracies that is much more abstract in which there are no dominant figures anymore.
There are rather cogs in the machine of the bureaucracy.
He thinks he calls this disciplinary society.
One model of disciplinary society, one aspect of it is the emergence of the modern prison system which he analyzes at such a depth in discipline.
And he takes the prison system to be exemplary of what our society looks.
He says what we have to recognise is that the prison looks like barracks like hospitals like universities like schools and schools, universities, barracks, hospitals look like prisons.
That's our modern reality.
They are all built on the same scheme of systematisation, normalisation, he says in which strict standards and rules are applied.
Norms apply everywhere.
And it's also a society in which everybody is constantly being surveyed to see whether to what extent they fit into the norm.
And when they don't, they become recognised and disciplined.
So disciplinary society, as exemplified by the prison system, is what is characteristic.
What does disciplinary society do?
It shapes each individual.
It doesn't take masses of individuals. It transforms the individual prisoner, the individual patient in the hospital, the individual student in the academy.
Then after he has finished writing a discipline at Panoh, she turns to the study of modern sexuality, the norms of modern sexuality.
And what he discovers is in this history of sexuality.
What he discovers there is that in the same period when this disciplinary individualising power emerges, another aspect emerges.
And they meet the control and regularisation and normalisation of whole populations.
Biopolitics is the politics of populations.
Disciplinary politics is the politics of individuals, but they go hand in hand, they're side by side.
And they both emerge at the same time.
Biopolitics is a concept he comes to some later after he has written his prison book.
But it turns out it's imperilable to as a complement to disciplinary society.
So do I get it right when discipline and punish when he speaks about the systems of surveillance that you have in the prison?
The ideal system would be that of the panopticon of Benthlino, where an observer can see the totality of the inmates in a cell, and the inmates cannot see any of their other fellow inmates are invisible to them.
And while the observer can't see them all at the same time, no particular inmate knows at any given moment whether he is under direct observation or not, and therefore begins to internalise the disability.
The discipline through the assumption that he may well be under observation.
And so there's an internalisation that is one of the forms that biopower exercises on individuals within the disciplinary society.
Well, I still would want to separate this notion of biopower from this phenomenon.
So disciplinary power is this power where the individual prisoner is sits in his individual cell, and he is treated as an individual because the aim is to normalise him again to make him fit into society.
Which on Foucault's critical picture doesn't mean that we make him law abiding because he thinks criminality may be itself a functional element in modern society.
Aspect here, but it's the individual that is to be reshaped in this process.
Biopower politics, biopower is added to this when society begins to manipulate populations.
So what are examples, racism, national socialism, is for Foucault one of the cases of an extreme form of biopolitics in which the gene pool of a whole population is to be
changed by excluding unwanted minorities and kind of retraining and forming a new pure population out of the contaminated German group.
That's why politics.
No, no, I'll discipline it.
He doesn't make this very explicit, but when you read it, you see he is seeing these as two parallel strands in a development of a controlling society.
And normalisation is a phenomenon that he associates with this era.
And now all of a sudden punishment, the form of punishment is no longer that of torture or execution for wrongdoing.
Now you are evaluated for what you are not, namely you are not normal in this respect, and therefore the correction of deviant behaviour becomes introduced as a part of the penal system for the first time.
Yes, one of the interesting points he makes and this was something that came to me as an illumination whenever this, the importance that the examination has come to take for us.
The test, it's everything from the driving test to, of course, academic tests, citizenship tests and so on.
The physical exam, the physical exam.
And these tests are not just meant to exclude the unwanted, they are also often meant to kind of tell us that we have to take the test again so that we can be normalized, that we know what the rules are, that we can act according to the rules.
So the examination system has something that is really quite modern and I hadn't thought about this.
If you go back to education in the past, educational procedures, examinations, presumably we did in function and play to the academy.
There were no final tests presumably, no aurals.
So here, he's pointing out something very important, I mean how we are relying on the test to stratify it, people and to kind of mold them in the right direction to get them to do the right thing.
So this might be a little parenthesis, but if normalisation is something that he analyzes in a very compelling way, I agree with you other.
And there is no way that you are going to find in Foucault a normative philosopher, at least not a philosopher or a thinker who is presuming to offer norms for political behaviour or personal behaviour.
And here I'd like to ask a question about Germany, your original homeland as well.
When I've been to Germany a few occasions for talks, it seems like many of your compatriots are obsessed with this phenomenon that they call normative.
As if that the task of the philosopher is to come up with, I don't know if I'm getting this oversimplifying, but to come up with norms, a haber mass or whatever, what have you.
And that if you don't translate your thought into this kind of prescriptive philosophy, then you're somehow failing your responsibility to be socially and politically engaged.
It's just something that you will search in vain for in Foucault's corpus.
Well, he certainly is a great critic of this search for norms, and one of the important things he points out is that all this talk about norms and normalisation really emerged only in the cause of the 19th century.
We try to as philosophers often kind of project it back into the past and we can speak about norms in Plato and Kant, but it turns out these philosophers hardly use these terms.
He's really a modern way, a very contemporary way of thinking.
So he's very critical of thinking in terms of these abstract norms, which doesn't mean however that he is not interested in asking the question, what are the practical consequences?
What should we do on the basis of this knowledge that I'm trying to come up with?
He's very much a practical thinker, an ethical thinker, I want to say.
Well, here then the other question where some people lament the absence of a strong concept of agency in Foucault's thinking.
At least an agency that we could associate either with the individual or a group or a party or even the state, because he believes in a kind of diffuse networks of power, and that some people would find it frustrating that you cannot find in Foucault any sort of not norms.
For political action, but for commitment, moral, political, and social, except in local spheres, what he called the specific intellectual rather than the universal intellectual.
Is there something, do you share this concern that there is not a fully persuasive or full-blown notion of agency in Foucault?
Well, I think he does come to a notion of agency, but his practical commitments are necessarily tied to the theoretical abrasion of that concept.
So even in this early period, in the example by a fight by the Order of Things, for instance, he draws practical consequences from his studies.
So what he's trying to show in this book is how the human sciences are based on a conception of man that is internally incoherent, that the human sciences are not really sciences, that they are unstable.
And the question for him at that point is then what next? What do we do? How should we speak and think about human beings?
And I want to say that his book, the Order of Things, is itself an exemplification of what needs to be done. We have to rethink how we approach questions about the nature of human knowledge.
Here is my way of doing this, the alternative to the human sciences as they have been practiced so far.
So, similarly, when he talks about disciplinary society and bio-power, again, the concern is a very practical one.
I mean, how can we still, and how do we escape from the shaping and confining force of disciplinary bio-power?
But it's true that it's only in the last years of his life, in the 1980s, that he turns to this question of action.
And I think, again, this is motivated partly by the historical circumstances. I see very much as a situated thinker who always thinks in terms of what's happening around him.
So, in the 1970s, he is the political philosopher, the activist, the theoretician of power of disciplinary society, the critic of bio-power.
In the 1980s, of course, we have here in America two of this inward turning to some extent, away from politics towards oneself.
How must one live? And he goes back to nature and the ancient, as it turns out, and seeks to develop an ethics of life and aesthetics of existence he says.
So, a form of ethics in which we concern ourselves with ourselves, and he finds this crucial term in Plato called the care of the self, the epithelia, he or two.
And he says, "This is what we must pursue, we must pursue this care of the self, realizing all the time that the self is not a fixed thing that we whose nature we must discover, and according to which we must then live.
But it's rather something that we must construct, it's like a work of art that we must make out of ourselves."
I'm very curious about this moment in his later thinking, because he, Lucisio the Swa, the care of the self, is something that he took as a positive affirmative.
He affirmed it as something to be cultivated, I'm presuming now.
At the same time, it seems to be part of his history of sexuality, multi-volume, real large study.
What, how does the care for the self relate to his broad study of the history of sexuality?
Well, when he finally finished the second third and fourth volume of the history of sexuality, the book had turned into something much broader, a history of the subject.
And sexuality is only an aspect of who we are, of course, and that's what he began to realise.
So in this story he tells, he tries to describe how the Greeks had a conception of the subject as something that has to make itself in its own, through its own life, it has to shape itself.
But by the type Christianity emerges, a new concept of the subject comes about, namely that we have a soul that is born with inherent properties already.
And what we have to do is to examine who we are in our own sinfulness and realise that and recognise that and then act accordingly.
And he thinks the modern conception of a scientific subject with fixed, genetically fixed characteristics even is the ultimate descendant of this Christian view, which has taken many, many forms in between.
So there are really two conceptions of the subject that he is considering. There is this ancient one in which we are called upon to freely make ourselves into something.
And then there is the one in which we already have a fixed nature and we have to live according to it.
The second he wants to critically deconstruct and question in order for us to open ourselves up to this ancient view again, not to reconstruct that we live there, but to in our own wake come to understand that we also have this project of making ourselves into who we are.
Well this becomes interesting when one considers his relationship to Jean Paul Saff, who was the towering figure when he was writing the history of madness and his early works.
And of course he had a rejection, a repudiation of the Sartrean strong subject and so forth, but there at the end this notion of the care for the self and self fashioning, not self fashioning, I don't like that word.
But self making, self cultivation, this seems very sympathetic with the existentialist notion that there is no fixed essence to human being that your existence perceives your essence and that therefore you in some sense are the architect of your own self through the choices that you make.
So he seems to come around maybe mellowed out in his antagonism towards Sash, towards at the end would you agree.
That's probably true though, he still rejects Sartre as a root of this concept, he wants to kind of connect it back to nature of course, who is his great inspirational philosophical figure.
Well I'm also intrigued by this identification Foucault head to the end where he declares that he was a Nietzschean.
That is his genealogy, that Nietzsche had a theory of power, of the will to power which he affirmed and thought that our values now should be re-transvaluated where we affirm power, the will to power is the essence of what is alive and so forth.
And so from one point of view Nietzsche had a, I don't want to say a triumphalistic concept of power, but a promotional one.
Foucault has a very suspicious attitude towards power and the more power consolidates itself, the more complex become its networks, the more its spreads, its invisible web over everything, the worse off we are.
Nietzsche would say this sort of growing and increasing mastery of power over society, that this is what the will to power is in its essence and therefore this is a sign of health, vigor and triumph as opposed to decadence.
Now Nietzsche had a theory of decadence, I don't believe Foucault had a theory of decadence, maybe he didn't need one, but for Nietzsche, decadence was the desegregation of the way power had consolidated itself earlier and so he uses that great example of the scent where the paragraph jumps out of the chapter, the sentence jumps out of the paragraph, the word jumps out of the sentence.
So Foucault was Nietzsche and only in certain respects, I don't think he was Nietzsche and when it came to this sort of championing of the increasing enhancement of powers, consolidation of its mastery and domination of things.
Yes, so in his last interview he said famously, I am simply a Nietzsche and I would have liked to have been there and said, what do you mean by simply? Now there are so many aspects and sides to Nietzsche, such a volatile thinker, what is it that you see in Nietzsche and how do you kind of make sense of that.
But in this interview, Foucault went on to say, well even when I'm saying things that are contrary to Nietzsche, it's still Nietzschean and spirit.
So what he identified with is his sort of openness to questions, to issues he famously once said, I'm an experimental rather than a theorist and that's why I've been dealing with so many issues in my lifetime.
So in that respect he is very Nietzschean, but he is perfectly happy to depart from Nietzsche when he sees this to be necessary, his concept of power takes a different form, his conception of genealogy is quite different.
So I think his moral ideals are quite different, he is not an elitist of the sort that Nietzsche ever was.
So in many respects he is quite anti-neaching in his views, but he sees himself still tied to Nietzsche in his attitude towards philosophy.
And I wanted here as a third quote which I have for you, which I didn't want to miss out on, let me give it to you.
He says, what this also from his last book, 1984, what can philosophy be today?
But then what is philosophy today, philosophical activity, I mean, if it is not the critical work that thought brings to bear on itself.
And what does it consist if not in the endeavor to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently instead of legitimating what is already known?
And I think in this effort to think differently, that's where he is so deeply Nietzschean.
So genuinely Nietzschean I want to say.
For sure.
And you suggested that he is a thinker of the present, that he always took his starting point from the present.
He said the history of the present, he says, is this good, so.
And so, late in life in an interesting turn, he looks at Kant again.
Kant had been very important in his critique of modernity and this concept of man, which he thinks is a Kantian notion that lies behind two human sciences.
But now he turns back and he reads not the standard works, the great critiques, but he reads the smaller essays of Kant.
What is enlightenment, the idea of universal history.
And he discovers Kant there who is concerned with understanding his own time, rather than thinking about the universal conditions of the possibility of knowledge.
And so he begins to identify with this and he says, what we have to see is that there are really two great traditions of thought that have come out of Kant.
One is the Anglo-American analytic tradition that comes out of the major writings, the great critique.
Kantian critiques.
But there is this other Kant, the Kant who wants to think about the present moment.
What philosophers are called upon to do at this moment?
And that, he says, is presents a new way of thinking about philosophy in which the present itself becomes a philosophical issue and how to respond to the present.
And I think when Man looks from these later remarks back at the earlier work, you see something like this happening at all phases in Foucault's thinking.
So when he critiques the human science, he's thinking of course of his own time, he's thinking about the Kant, the Levistros and other French theorists of his time is thinking of Sartre and he's critiquing those and saying we must think about human beings in new ways.
This is a critique of the present.
And many things about disciplinary society and biopower again, he's thinking, what is our society like right now?
How has it emerged and how must we respond to this?
So finally in the last phase as well, the same thing.
Look at who we are now, what kinds of subjections we are subject to, I have to say.
So how society wants to press us into molds and how we must learn to free ourselves to become subject to make ourselves into something?
I think that respect he was Nietzsche and as a historian of the present, I think Nietzsche always took.
Nietzsche, even the birth of tragedy, his first book was supposed to be a contribution to the philology and the ancient Greek was taken.
It's impulse from the present, at least the Wagner and the rebirth of the spirit of music in the present.
At the same time, Nietzsche had this whole insistence on the untimeliness, the necessary untimeliness of philosophy that it has to be
out of sync with a certain kind of present, not out of sync, but not just by into the present moment and its presuppositions.
And here, Hans, you said that you want to think beyond Foucault at the beginning of our show, not beyond Foucault, but what Foucault himself did not live to update his own sort of thinking.
And the history has undergone quite a significant sort of a series of changes since Foucault died in 1984.
And I guess two questions for you. One is, do you agree with me that there is still a great deal of pertinent in his thinking of especially the disciplinary society?
The technologies of surveillance, that this aspect of our society has only been aggravated enormously since he died, where if Foucault could have seen what kind of actual technologies of surveillance exist nowadays, it seems like we're all under the eye of a panopticon.
I think you were telling me that in England there's a video camera for...
If you've 14 people won the camera, yes. Every 14 people won the camera, so it's as if surveillance has become omnipresent.
Normalization, identity politics, all these kind of things, I think there's something in Foucault thinking about that, which has not become obsolete by any means on the contrary.
It seemed to have been clear of it, it's still a clear of it. Would you agree with that?
Yes, certainly. So what interests me is the political core, I have to say.
And it's precisely the Foucault who says we have to think about institutions not as the given of the political world, but rather as products of complex interactions and relations, power relations of some sort or another.
But I also think that much has changed since Foucault wrote all this, so he spent some very little time thinking about the questions of the environment of a population of weapons of mass destruction, new forms of terrorism, all the things that concern us, and that I think need to force us to think further about how what kind of forms politics can take for us.
In his late life, I see also a kind of turning away from politics with his concern with itself.
And I have gone back to the Greeks and have looked at these texts and I said, there's something that he has missed out on.
They mean that there's also the idea of a care for the common for community, which goes beyond that of the care of the self.
I think as an ideal can easily lead to a kind of superficial liberalism. And what we need is to look at society more from the point of view of the community. And this is something that the Greeks understood and that Foucault seems to me had less in view when he returned to this question of the subject.
Because the care of the self could be also just very new ages where it is.
It is absolutely something.
And in the terms of the care of for the communal, do you see there some coincidence or sympathy between Foucault and Hannah Allen, who's also went back to the Greeks and who used the myth of the police or the way the participation for the
common good, the love of the world, the Amor Mundi, which is her great phrase, her redeems that notion of from Augustine who used it at a negative view of the love of the world.
But for Hannah, the love of the world was the founding value. And that maybe a little Hannah Allen supplements for Foucault.
So it was a great length to bringing us into this notion of the cultivation of the common.
Yes. I'm also a great admirer of R&D. I have to add and one can learn much from her that supplements what I can learn from Foucault.
I've never been somebody who's believed that we should attach ourselves to a single philosopher, a single great master thinker.
And I don't think that Foucault ever intended to be such. So we ought to look for inside wherever we can find it.
Some of it we'll find it Foucault, some of it we find in other places.
So you're teaching this course on Foucault in Berkeley now. And are you also written essays and so forth?
Is it something you were working on in terms of a larger book?
Well, I'm working on a book on politics which will take up quite a bit of Foucault thinking on this topic.
But my students have been urging me that I should make a book out of my course. And I thought maybe they know something that I haven't quite seen yet.
Well, I think that would be a great idea because again, I'm delighted you were able to come down from Berkeley to talk to us on entitled opinions.
I'll say this, but I can't deny it because it's going to be on air, but it's that, you know, Stanford, for example, does not have a strong Foucault interdition.
And then it's very hard to find interlocutor on Foucault.
So we have a tendency to assume that Foucault is in everyone's blood.
I grew as a graduate student. It was everywhere.
But a book that would lay out in a systematic manner in clear and distinct ways, the itinerary and the relevance, and then how one has to think beyond, or I don't want to say update Foucault, but look at spots where he did not actually go himself, but where one could go with his thinking.
I think there is a vast literature on Foucault, as you know, but there is not that much for my systematic philosophical viewpoint, and I think I could contribute something to that.
Good. One last question for you, Hans. This is my personal curiosity about Foucault was such a thinker of the periods of history and the renaissance of the cosysical age, modernity, and so forth.
And he realized that he did not have, at a certain point, he didn't have enough conceptual apparatus to describe why one era would give way to another and what forms, how why would take on certain formations.
The other thinker that you wrote a book about at Martin Heidegger did have a sign, the history of being, where he does speak about these regimes of presence or these different epoxy in the history of metaphysics, and does have for better for wars of philosophy of how you go from the ancient Greeks through the Christian era to the modern era, to the age of technicity, and he even looks for what one would have to do.
Or in a passive mode to get beyond this sort of gashdel that dominates our age of technicity. Do you think that if Foucault could have used this sort of history of being of Heidegger in productively if he had wished to do so?
Well, I'm sure he could have profited from some of the details of Heidegger's argument. I think the overarching ontological viewpoint would have been alien to him. He was not intending to be a kind of systematic metaphysical thinker of the sort that Heidegger aspire to be.
I agree with the difference as there, but still I think again I think one can learn something from Heidegger if one is interested in Foucault.
Well, certainly Foucault would not have bought into Heidegger's notion that it's ideas that open up the way to history.
He would have been more vehicle like where Heidegger has his famous, well this great axiom called the Order of Ideas must follow the Order of Institutions.
So you quoted this remark for my website saying that I think of Foucault as a realist and naturalistic and identify with this. That's what I meant.
I mean that it's not, we can't think of history and our society simply in terms of great ideas that's a mistake and Heidegger is still an heir to that tradition.
Whereas Foucault is a much more realistic, much more oriented towards institutions, about social realities.
That's terrific.
And what are we mind our listeners? We've been speaking with Professor Hans Sluga who is the William and Trudy.
I was a phi, he professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley.
He was kind enough to come down from Berkeley to speak with us on this hour.
So thanks again for coming on Hans.
We'll look forward to having you in the future.
Thank you.
Bye bye.
I'm Robert Harrison for entitled opinions. You can access all our past shows by going to our website,
titled opinions or iTunes podcasts. We're leaving you here with a track with a French band La Felim of their album,
Wolf and Wheel, called La Nuduja.