WITTGENSTEIN'S IMPACT ON FOUCAULT(1)
"Knowledge shall NOT, finally, know the knower." This interdict from the Vedas links Wittgenstein and Foucault (Michel Foucault is Professor and holder of the Chair of History and Systems of Thought at the College of France). Let me attempt to sketch the profound affinity of these two scholars, and note that the serious differences which also exist do not vitiate the bond. The profound tie between Wittgenstein and Foucault is the silence/illusion/limits each imposes on language/discourse. Foucault calls himself a diagnostician of 'discourse.' Foucault asserts that he is doing neither History nor Philosophy, and as does Wittgenstein holds that the examination he has invented (archeology) leaves the empirical untouched. Archeological analysis exposes the unconscious of discourse; not to be confused with the unconscious of Freud, though similarities do exist. Archeological analysis maintains a variety of guidelines developed by Wittgenstein, and imposes additional ones, some of which do no violence to the Wittgensteinian view.
Psycho-logic is not a metric of archeology, neither is anthropo-logic. Phenomono-logic, scepticism, and solipcisms are relegated out of Foucault's analytics. The 'exterior/interior' dichotomy is resolved in the Wittgensteinian manner. The 'private language' argument is seen in a similar sense. The 'boundary' argument is a critical feature of the archeology. The logical/use limits of word (sentence) is honored, and is used as a limit for discourse, for the 'statement', and for the 'enunciative field' as well as for other features of discourse. The arguments about 'universals' apply to Foucault's account of discourse and epistemes. A mixture of discourses voids both discourses. A discourse may arise in an episteme whose rules it mimics, but does not reflect, and while that discourse may be termed knowledge, it may not be entitled to the claim of scientificity (see: Psychoanalysis). Reduction, in the form of application, metaphor, and scientification, is (at minimum) a 'boundary error' resulting in the destruction of discourse. Discourse 'is what it is,' and while Foucault is tempted to posit a theory about discourse, the formulations that: hidden, transcendental, primary, causative events located on yet another plane (than the discourse in question) is rejected. What is said/is what is said, and can only be so said in that discourse, set in that episteme. To those still fond of ideologies (as clarifiers of discourse) Foucault gives little comfort. Archeological analysis can not rescue ideology out of metaphysics.
The 'family resemblance' issue is met/used in the dramatics of the total break between epistemes. (The word 'medicine' in the classic age has similarity to the word 'medicine' in the modern age only by virtue of: sound and spelling. The words: madness, grammar, economics, Natural history, et al, also have only sound and spelling in common from episteme to episteme.) The discourse of an episteme is not at the option of an individual. However, a specific and limited option is found in the notion MAN. To speak of/to/about discourses (or elements thereof) is a feature of 'verbal performance' which Foucault calls MAN. The 'birth' of this contention seems to be the splitting of the authorization of verbal performance among: science/state/individual speaker, and is allied to a humanism. This 'individualized' verbal performance remains within the 'empirico' and 'is' 'transcendental' only by virtue of comment/authority. Only with the abrupt end of the Classical discourse, and the independent emergence of the Modern discourse could the notion MAN occur. Of course, Man could occur as an 'individual verbal performance' at any time in the history of homo sapiens, but not as 'epistemic verbal performance' (notice: Heresy).
Foucault suggests that the anthropocentrism in which Wittgenstein is at times shrouded, is possible only in the Modern age. Wittgenstein's time, as one sometimes hears, would be for Foucault not Vienna, but the Modern episteme. There is, however, no implication that Wittgenstein's methodology is inappropriate for the analysis of ordinary language of another episteme; just as Foucault's archeological analysis is not restricted to the Modern age, or to science.
Time and space are not confiners of MAN, notice here the similarity to that aspect of the 'rule/meaning/grammar' dialog. Wittgenstein's 'rule' is honored,, and used for the entire discourse. An 'independence of meaning' finds no place in Foucault. Foucault's 'verbal performance' is (as with Wittgenstein's 'usage') the key to objects, but the word 'objects' of the Modern age is unlike that word of the Classical age. In the Classical age, object and word/object are peculiarly involved. Archeological analysis in different 'ages' must yield varying ontological/epistemological claims.
The various implicits of the 'forms of life' argument can be seen in Foucault's discussion of discourse, and in his caveats about epistemes. Foucault through his archeological analysis attempts to expose the 'given' in discourse. The unconscious of discourse is laid open, again not to expose a secret source, a hidden meaning, but to clarify "...what has to be accepted, the given is-so one could say-forms of life" (P.I. 226). The 'verbal performance' 'is an is'. Discourse 'is' a form of life, as it forms by its 'posivity' and by its exclusion. Foucault lays open the noninductive conditions justifying the 'verbal performance' of a discourse, and in that gives notice of the influence of 'criteria' on his work. He does not make a contribution to the unworked out arguments about criteria. As suggested earlier, the unexaminability of MAN rests partially on the 'criteria' and 'forms of life' arguments.
Silence: Foucault's 'verbal performance' and his account of knowledge differ from what is 'sayable/grammar'. Epistemic structures enforce their own particular silence. Involved in this inevitability (epistemic silences) are the in situ political/moral structures. Foucault's silence is more 'sayable' than Wittgenstein's, but only at the 'exterior limits' of MAN. Here (exterior limits) what for Wittgenstein would be surface grammar (illusion) becomes for Foucault 'knowledge/representation'. Silence holds over all attempts (including Freud's) of speaking 'as MAN'.
Can science be the metric for discourse? No! Foucault (must and does) argue that archeology is not science. His argument involves the clarity offered in/about sentences/grammar. Neither Wittgenstein's man, nor Foucault's Man 'are part of nature', and therefore the clarification man/MAN is not a scientific question, and not a question at all. Quantification/mathematics offer no rescue; of silence, of man/MAN; nor does mathematics scientialize (see: Psychology). 232 of the PI is a full part of Foucault's position.
Psychology is questioned: Foucault notes the sorry state of clinical psychology; speaks less pejoratively of Fechner's efforts (as long as those efforts are not glorified because of the use of logarithms); and speaks of decision theory, and of learning. No psychological effort, (whether termed knowledge and/or science) can, of course, speak 'as MAN'. If psychological findings are based (partially or fully) on language, Wittgenstein's dicta would offer these claims the rest of silence/illusion. If philosophy of mind is to rescue psychological inquiry/findings, then Wittgenstein must be refuted. If this refutation rests on promissory notes, it can only stand as promise, and not as refutation. If Wittgenstein's challenge of psychology is questioned because of its 'extreme' position, the questioner must demonstrate that the challenge of Wittgenstein is not simply founded in political conservatism, and/or a reading of the history of science.
Aside: Some psychological findings could be allowed as-chronology. This might not satisfy many in psychology, as chronology (continuous or episodic) would fall outside of science; but not necessarily outside of factual language. This chronology could also remain within what Wittgenstein has termed: 'what I have not said/shown'. That unsaid/unshown was held by Wittgenstein to be what is most important in life. The part of Wittgenstein's criticism of Freud which is tribute, is the telling that Freud has shown us something important-of that which is of importance in life.
The "Human sciences" (Foucault states) are: those times, of Sociology, of Literature, of Ethnology, of Linguistics, of Psychology, et al, during which these disciplines assert to be speaking 'as MAN'. The human sciences are exposed (via archeological analysis) as not being sciences at all, even while they are revealed to be possible (and only possible) as discourse/knowledge in the Modern age. Paradox: The human sciences, possible only in the Modern age wherever there is: analysis of 'norm', 'rules', and 'signifying totalities', use the verbal performance style of the Classical age. Aside: This alone would not preclude their scientificness. Classical discourse (which excluded the verbal performance called MAN), plus the isomorphism of object/MAN (MAN whose 'birth: is the very possibility of the human sciences), plus the involution on representation, these combined conditions exclude the human sciences from being science; and allows the characterization of the human sciences as imitating the philosophical posture of the 18th century. The human sciences can, therefore, only 'represent' MAN. While Foucault enables us to see that no one of the human sciences is out of Freud's debt (Freud: the setter of the 'outside limits' of discourse set to speak 'as MAN'), Foucault also reveals that Freud is the champion of a double error. Error one: To herald the scientizability of man. Error Two: To suggest a clarification of MAN using an epistemic style in which that very conception/activity (MAN) is not possible. Foucault lets us see that the diabolic of Freud is the affinity of Freud (thus of all the human sciences) to the Modern age, while engaged in a complete rupture with the Modern episteme. For Foucault, Freud was that genius who understood (along with Nietzsche) the role of death as limit in verbal performance; who understood, that if the finite is to be validated (which of course Freud immediately violated: via a twofold reductionism-
Biology and theory), the range of verbal performance must be extended. Foucault shows how Freud the rescuer of the irrational, validated the irrational as 'the mirror' (see Foucault: on Sade), which immediately became common glitter. Using Foucault's terms, Freud's effort to rescue the Other, ended up by superimposing the Same. Foucault shows how a rescue effort becomes its counter while honoring Freud as pioneer ('No one in the human sciences is out of his debt'), Foucault lets us see that MAN paid the price by disappearing into Freud: an ironic price for rescue. Freud's Herculean failure is applauded by Foucault and Wittgenstein, as it is exposed.
Foucault warns us that MAN (the end of the empirico-transcendental axis-that inalienable authority to speak) is in danger. The rise of science (another independent authorized voice), the status of human sciences, both may eclipse that inalienable authority. If that authority is vacated by political or epistemic change, then "...MAN would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea."
The methodological style of Foucault seems to have profited from the work (mostly post Tractatus) of Wittgenstein. To the question: Is Wittgenstein's mode of clarification of ordinary language continued in the archeological effort of Foucault-a resounding yes can be offered. Critical features of Wittgenstein's analytics can be found in Foucault's account of verbal performance; an account while unique to Foucault, while brought to analysis by Foucault, while hardly interchangeable with Wittgenstein's own efforts, seems to warrant the suggestion of an impact of Wittgenstein of Foucault.
Future papers need to focus on the details of the disparity between and similarities of these two scholars, highlighted in this brief survey. Comparisons always run the risk of reductionism, and of absurdity; hopefully the case here made avoided these pitfalls.
Two giants, on similar and different grounds, have given credence to an Eastern wisdom: Knowledge shall not, finally, know the knower.
1. Aron, H. (1977, August). Wittgenstein's impact on Foucault. In E. W. Leinfellner, H. Deinfellner, and H. Berghel (Eds.) Wittgenstein and his Impact on Contemporary Thought, (pp. 58-60). Kirchberg, Austria: Kluwer. Presented at meeting of the 2nd International Wittgenstein Symposium.