Michel Foucault – Lectures on the Will to Know

Lectures on the Will to Know remind us that Michel Foucault’s work only ever had one object: truth. Discipline and Punish completed an investigation of the role of juridical forms in the formation of truth-telling, the preparatory groundwork for which is found here in these lectures. Truth arises in conflicts, in rival claims for which the rituals of judicial judgment provide the possibility of deciding between who is right and who is wrong. At the heart of ancient Greece there is a succession of different and opposing juridical forms and ways of dividing true and false into which the disputes between sophists and philosophers are soon inserted. In Oedipus the King, Sophocles stages the peculiar force of forms of truth-telling: they establish power just as they depose it. Against Freud, who will make Oedipus the drama of a shameful sexual desire, Michel Foucault shows that the tragedy articulates the relations between truth, power, and law. The history of truth is that of the tragedy. Beyond the irenicism of Aristotle, who situated the will to truth in the desire for knowledge, Michel Foucault deepens the tragic vision of truth inaugurated by Nietzsche, who Foucault, in a secret dialogue with Deleuze, rescues from Heidegger’s reading.

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Foucault Plays Habermas: An Alternative Philosophical Underpinning for Critical Systems Thinking

Critical Systems Thinking (CST) has traditionally sought its philosophical underpinning in the work of German theorist Jurgen Habermas. We suggest that CST need not necessarily be informed by Habermas, and present the thought of Michel Foucault as one possible alternative. This paper traces the historical development of the relative positions of Habermas and Foucault and examines the differences between the two with regard to systems. Our aim is to spark and inform debate within the systems/OR community as to the relative merits of each as a basis for CST.

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State of Exception – Giorgio Agamben

Two months after the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration, in the midst of what it perceived to be a state of emergency, authorized the indefinite detention of noncitizens suspected of terrorist activities and their subsequent trials by a military commission. Here, distinguished Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben uses such circumstances to argue that this unusual extension of power, or “state of exception,” has historically been an underexamined and powerful strategy that has the potential to transform democracies into totalitarian states.

The sequel to Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, State of Exception is the first book to theorize the state of exception in historical and philosophical context. In Agamben’s view, the majority of legal scholars and policymakers in Europe as well as the United States have wrongly rejected the necessity of such a theory, claiming instead that the state of exception is a pragmatic question. Agamben argues here that the state of exception, which was meant to be a provisional measure, became in the course of the twentieth century a normal paradigm of government. Writing nothing less than the history of the state of exception in its various national contexts throughout Western Europe and the United States, Agamben uses the work of Carl Schmitt as a foil for his reflections as well as that of Derrida, Benjamin, and Arendt.

In this highly topical book, Agamben ultimately arrives at original ideas about the future of democracy and casts a new light on the hidden relationship that ties law to violence.

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A Neurophilosophy of Power and Constitutionalism

With this post, the Blog of the APA is beginning a new short-term series by Prof Nayef Al-Rodhan titled “Neurophilosophy of Governance, Power and Transformative Innovations.” This series provides neurophilosophical perspectives and multi-disciplinary analyses on topics related to power and political institutions, as well as on a series of contemporary transformative technologies and their disruptive nature. The goal is to inspire innovative intellectual reflections and to advance novel policy considerations.

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A Neurophilosophy of Divisive Politics, Inequality and Disempowerment

If journalists, pundits, academics, and commentators of all stripes can agree on anything, it is that our current times are characterized by extraordinarily divisive politics. In the public domain, an entire vocabulary has been developed and elaborated in the service of making this point: people read, watch, and amplify selective information within their respective “echo chambers;” political discussions are “silo-ed” off from outside opinions dissonant from the insider point of view. These characterizations can be exaggerated, particularly given the force of repetition; as Barry Eichengreen reminds us in his concise new book, periods of dramatic partisanship and attendant mudslinging are not new to neither Europe nor the United States. Yet the manifestations of this political divisiveness are remarkable in their abruptness, magnitude, and simultaneity across differing political contexts. Collectively they represent a phenomenon that is dangerous and destabilizing, one which policymakers must struggle to better understand and confront.

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A Neuro-Philosophy of Dignity-Based Governance

 

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Individual Self, Relational Self, and Collective Self

This volume is based on the premise that the self-concept consists of three fundamental self-representations: the individual self, the relational self, and the collective self. Stated otherwise, persons seek to achieve self-definition and self-interpretation (i.e., identity) in three fundamental ways: (a) in terms of their unique traits, (b) in terms of dyadic rela tionships, and (c) in terms of group membership (Brewer & Gardner, 1996).

The individual self is achieved by differentiating from others (i.e., the individual self contains those aspects of the self-concept that differentiate the person from other persons as a unique constellation of traits and characteristics that distinguishes the individual within his or her social context). This form of self-representation relies on interpersonal comparison processes and is associated with the motive of protecting or enhancing the person psychologically (Brewer & Gardner, 1996; see also Markus, 1977; Sedikides, 1993).

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The relational self: An interpersonal social-cognitive theory

The authors propose an interpersonal social–cognitive theory of the self and personality, the relational self, in which knowledge about the self is linked with knowledge about significant others, and each linkage embodies a self–other relationship. Mental representations of significant others are activated and used in interpersonal encounters in the social–cognitive phenomenon of transference (S. M. Andersen & N. S. Glassman, 1996), and this evokes the relational self. Variability in relational selves depends on interpersonal contextual cues, whereas stability derives from the chronic accessibility of significant-other representations. Relational selves function in if–then terms (W. Mischel & Y. Shoda, 1995), in which ifs are situations triggering transference, and thens are relational selves. An individual’s repertoire of relational selves is a source of interpersonal patterns involving affect, motivation, self-evaluation, and self-regulation.

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The Relational Self: Basic Forms of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness, the feeling that our experiences are bound to the self—as a unitary entity distinct from others and the rest of the world—is a key aspect of the human mind. But how do we become aware of ourselves in a constantly changing and complex physical and social environment? How do we relate to others while keeping in touch with one’s self, with the fundamental feeling that there is an ‘I’ at the core of all our experiences and exchanges with the world and others? How is it possible to navigate such a dynamic environment without losing track of one’s self? What are the mechanisms underlying typical and atypical self-awareness and how can we spell them out within a coherent conceptual and empirical framework? What are the most basic or minimal forms of self-awareness? Is the minimal self relational or is it preferable to conceptualise it in an individualistic manner, as a fundamentally subjective sense of mineness? Is there is a ‘sense of we’, and if yes, what is its relationship with the minimal ‘individualistic’ self?

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Marxism, structuralism and post-structuralism

In Considerations on Western Marxism (1976), Perry Anderson proposed a number of theses which have since passed into the general wisdom of the Marxist left. Western Marxism, he argued, sprang essentially from proletarian defeat in the post-Bolshevik era; the predominantly aesthetic and philosophical biases of its thought, in marked contrast to the political and economic preoccupations of classical Marxist theory, reflected a damaging dislocation of historical materialism from a blocked and thwarted working-class movement. For all its undoubted theoretical fertility, Western Marxism remained a largely academic phenomenon, drawing deeply upon idealist philosophical sources and marked by a most untraditional pessimism and melancholia. At the turn of the 1970s, Anderson claimed, this ambivalently creative and crippled heritage was on the wane, as renewed socialist militancy in the advanced capitalist societies appeared to herald the possibility of a Marxism less aloof from political practice.

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In the Tracks of Historical Materialism

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Structuralism, post-structuralism, neo-liberalism: assessing Foucault’s legacy

This article traces Foucault’s distinctive commitment to ‘post-structuralism’ through tracing the affinities and departures from structuralism. It is argued that under the infuence of Nietzsche, Foucault’s approach marks a distinct break with structuralism in several crucial respects. What results is a materialist post-structuralism which is also distinctively different from the post-structuralism of writers such as Derrida, Lyotard and Baudrilliard. Foucault’s account of neo-liberalism as an historically formed discourse is presented as an example of materialist post-structuralist analysis.

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