Michel Foucault on Rhetoric

Dr. Lucknow on Foucault

Ron Turner on Foucault

Ed's lecture notes

Foucault works against the "will to truth," the idea to deny to discourse its own reality and to think of it as only the window dressing or conveyer) . For Foucault, discourse is epistemological.

(1)Discursive Formations

Similar to zeitgeists and paradigms The structure governing knowledge in a culture that is established by particular discursive practices. There is only one present at a time; there is little overlap or transition between formations.

(2) Humans as a product of discourse.

The human Being has not always been the unifying element at the center for the organization of knowledge. The current discursive formation, Modernity, locates human beings as the foundation and origin of knowledge through their supremacy over the use of language. Language has been made into an objects which man controls. We have "invented man as a distinct self. Foucault argues that this self- turn upon itself and once again return man to the background of knowledge. To some degree, this would undermine the linguistic/rhetorical turn.

(3) His methods: From archaeology to genealogy

Means for analyzing the production of discourse in terms of the possibilities that allow it to appear and that govern its knowledge and order: examine the interior to determine the rules and relations.

From 1972: archaeology became genealogy: added the aspect of power relations--how do the rules governing discursive practices operate along with the network of power relations of which rules are a part. Also adds a dimension of relatedness between separate discursive formatiors

(4) Techniques

(5) Relates Power with knowledge with discourse.

(Student produced study guide taken from Foss, Foss, and Trapp )

Learning Objectives

1. To understand Foucault's interest in the construction of knowledge.

2. To comprehend Foucault's study of power and its effects.

3. To develop an understanding of Foucault's elements of ethics and its role in identity.

4. To be able to list the three elements of Foucault's study of morals.

5. To list and understand the four aspects that divide the realm of ethics.

6. To understand why archeology and genealogy are synonymous with knowledge and order.

7. To have a working knowledge of Foucault's discursive formation and its meaning in the realm of knowledge.

8. To understand Foucault's governing rules for various aspects of the discursive formation.

Annotated Readings

Armstrong, T.J. trans. Michel Foucault: In the History of Philosophy. Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc., New York 1992. Rhetoricians, mostly French, critique many of Foucault's rhetorical devices, from his theory of Power to his "liberal view of the individual." He is, also, compared and contrasted to such philosophers as Heidegger and Nietzsche.

Blair, Carole, and Cooper, Martha. "The Humanist Turn in Foucault's Rhetoric of Inquiry". Quarterly Journal of Speech. Vol. 73. May 1987. pp. 151-171. This article discusses how Foucault's rhetoric is a constructive instrument that enhances humanism's goal of freedom by opening a space for inquiry into who the human is. He has demonstrated a means of critique from which we can derive possible valued historical deconstruction of sorts without destructive consequences. Foucault is shown to have a legacy of critique of the human nature that is rhetorical, humanistic and productive.

Dreyfus, Hubert L, and Rabinow, Paul. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1982. This book has both an afterward and an interview with Foucault, where he discusses his Genealogy of Ethics. The rest is dedicated to covering Foucault's live work with emphasis on his Existentialist and Post Structuralist point of view.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Vintage Books, New York 1979. This brilliant study by one of the most influential philosophers sweeps aside centuries of sterile debate about prison reform, and hands over a highly provocative account of how penal institutions and the power to punish has become part of our lives. Foucault gives a detailed account of the alleged failures of the modern prison by showing how the very concern with rehabilitation encourages and refines criminal activity.

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977. Pantheon Books, New York 1980. One of the major reasons for this book is to bring into clear focus the political and intellectual environment in which this work has been carried out. This volume should assist to undo some of the confusing elements commonly produced by the use of such vague labels as "structuralism" and "post-Marxism" and make possible a more informed estimate of its significance within contemporary thought.

LaFountain, Marc J. "Foucault and Dr. Ruth". Critical Studies in Mass Communication. Vol. 6. 1989 pp. 123-137. This essay is an expansion of Foucault's genealogy of the modern subject and morals, particularly as found in The History of Sexuality. It focuses on the contemporary sex therapist, Dr. Ruth. The popularity of Dr. Ruth is located within the matrix of power/knowledge and the political technology of the body, especially sexually. Special attention is given to the technology of confession, the self and the ways in which the medium of television extends the purpose of bio-power.

Key Terms and Definitions

1. Episteme (216)-

A grouping of statements that suggests a consistent pattern in how they function as constituents of a system of knowledge. An episteme may be a cultural code, characteristic system, structure, network, or ground of thought that governs the language, perception, values, and practices of an age.

2. Discursive formation (217)-

Foucault replaced the term "episteme" with this when he wrote The Archeology of Knowledge. Because he was not a structuralist, Foucault decided to abandon "episteme", and use a term that fit within his philosophy. This has the same meaning of "episteme".

3. Statement (217)-

The basis unit of discursive formation, this is a set of signs or symbols to which a status of knowledge can be ascribed. Discourse is the plural of "statement". The statement is not a sentence due to the sentence being governed by grammatical rules and the statement is governed by logic rules.

4. Resemblance (similitude) (221)-

Episteme of the sixteenth century was based on the thought that everything resembles something else and in that sense stood for it. Words and things were not thought of as being separate.

5. Power (224)-

"A more-or-less organized, hierarchical, co-ordinated cluster of relations." Power is a characteristic of all relationships and, in fact, constitutes those relationships. All individuals exercise power, and are all subjected to it.

6. Bio-power (225)-

Power over life. It "exerts a positive influence of life, that endeavors to administer, optimize, and multiply it, subjecting it to precise controls and comprehensive regulations."

7. Resistance (226)-

In Foucault's system, this can be characterized by discourse that both creates and constrains.

8. Specific intellectual (227)-

Ordinary people who have knowledge of their circumstances and are able to express themselves independently of the universal theorizing intellectual.

9. Universal intellectual (227)-

A defender of natural rights and an advocate of humanity. A bearer of universal moral, theoretical and political values who is at the forefront of progress and revolution.

10. Critique (227)-

A major tool of resistance that points out what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought are accepted as self-evident that will no longer be accepted as such. Attacking the existing order of things.

11. Ethics (227)-

One part of the study of morals that illustrates how individuals constitute themselves as moral subjects.

12. Moral Code (228)-

Rules that determine which acts are permitted or forbidden and the code which determines the positive or negative values of possible behaviors.

13. Ethical substance (228)-

Aspect of the self that is seen as the appropriate domain for moral conduct.

14. Mode of subjection (228)-

The authority or rationale for moral obligations, "the way in which people are invited or incited to recognize their moral obligations."

15. Asceticism (228)-

The practical means by which individuals become ethical subjects.

16. Telos (229)-

What is considered to be the state of perfection or completion according to the moral code. The discovery of "one's true self".

17. Archeology (229)-

A means for analyzing the production of discourse in terms of the conditions of possibility that allow it to appear, and that govern the system of knowledge and order.

18. Genealogy (229)-

A compliment to archeology designed to describe Foucault's method of investigation. Genealogy looks for the rules governing discursive practices.

19. Methodology of inquiry (230)-

Characterized by the data Foucault chose to study, as he did not study renowned documents, but generally unknown ones.

20. Interpretation (commentary) (230)-

A technique of power in that it selects what is to be suppressed and allows only specifically qualified individuals to do the interpreting.

Topic Outline

I. Knowledge (216)

A. Episteme/Discursive Formation

1. Episteme is Foucault's term for the set of thoughts which determine the character of a culture.

a. Only one episteme can exist at a time due to the structure governing it is unique.

b. The uniqueness of each episteme also suggests that no simularities or relationships can be found with different epistemes.

2. Foucault later replaced episteme with the term Discursive Formation.

a. Foucault uses "discourse" as the plural of "statement", where statement is a set of symbols or signs to which the status of knowledge can be ascribed.

b. It is a type of articulation that, because it follows a particular set of rules, is understood to be true in a culture.

3. Epistemes may also prevent rhetoric, as some epistemes negate controversy by promoting a universal, irrefutable position.

B. Governing Rules

1. Foucault suggest a number of rules that govern various aspects of the discursive formation.

a. One category includes rules that control what can and what cannot be shared or what is or is not a viable form of discourse.

b. The second category of rules concerns not what is talked about but who is allowed, or qualified, to speak or write.

c. The third category of rules sets particular laws that the form of concepts and theories must assume to be accepted as knowledge in discourse.

2. Foucault's view of discursive formation governed by rules is a particular view of truth.

a. Truth is always dependent in a particular discursive formation; there is no underlying meaning within or imposed on the things of our world.

b. The truth or knowledge one possess about something rests within the relations of statements inside a discursive formation.

C. Role of Human Being

1. Foucault states that in the present episteme, the human being has become the unifying element and the center for the organization of knowledge.

a. In the sixteenth century, the episteme was based on the idea of resemblances or similitude.

b. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, language was used to define what was reality, severing the line between words and things.

c. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw history as a way to define and trace language in terms of growth and development.

2. Foucault believes a new episteme is pending and the role of the human being will be diminished significantly.

a. He noted that modern linguistic analysis had taken focus away from the speaker and placed focus on the system of language.

b. The next episteme has to move away from humans as a center, because, according to Foucault, of the human being's nature of subjectivity.

3. As a result of his study of the episteme/discursive formation, their governing rules and the diminishing role of the human being, Foucault came to an understanding of Knowledge and it's counterpart, Power.

II. Power (224)

A. Basic Tenets

1. The operation of power cannot be separated from the treatment of knowledge and discourse.

2. Forms of domination are built into the very understanding of the common activity or goods sought or whatever forms of the substance of a relationship.

3. All individuals exercise, and are subjected to power through a net-like organization.

4. Power requires the abandonment of the legal view that defines power as the enforcement of the law.

B. Power is enacted in a variety of ways.

1. The effectiveness of power increases as the visibility decreases.

2. Humans are unaware of the extent to which power affects lives.

a. Bio-power, a power over life, exerts a positive influence on life that drives to control it.

b. Power is productive and creative, not only repressive or prohibitive.

c. Power operates as a creative force that facilitates, produces and increases qualities and conditions.

3. Opposition to existing order occurs through the specific intellectual rather than the universal intellectual.

a. Specific intellectuals are ordinary people who have knowledge of their circumstances and are able to express themselves independently of the universal theorizing intellectual.

b. Universal intellectuals is a defender of natural rights, an advocate of humanity.

4. Resistance is discourse that both creates and constrains.

a. Critique is a major tool of resistance by saying things are not "right" as they are.

b. Only through resistance can reform be found in places where a particular battle needs to be fought and won.

III. Ethics (227)

A. The premise of self

1. Our identity is not fixed by nature or rooted in prior knowledge of who we are.

a. Being the subject of one's own experience is not a given.

b. Ethics is an area in which the process can be shown how one can be the subject of one's own experience.

c. Ethics illustrates how individuals constitute themselves as moral subjects.

2. There are three elements of the study of morals.

a. The moral code are the rules that determine which acts are permitted or forbidden.

b. The activity or behavior in which individuals engage in relation to the moral code.

c. The determination of how the individual views the self as a moral subject.

3. Foucault divides the realm of ethics into four aspects.

a. Ethical substance is the particular aspect of the self that is seen as the appropriate domain for moral conduct.

b. Mode of subjection is the authority or rationale for moral obligations.

c. Asceticism (or self-discipline) is the means by which individuals become ethical subjects.

d. Telos is the state of perfection or completion according to the moral code.

IV. Archaeology and Genealogy (229)

A. Archaeology

1. Archaeology is a way of analyzing systems of thought through a description of what may be spoken of in discourse, which terms are recognized as valid and what individuals, or groups, have access to particular kinds of discourse.

2. The aim of archaeology is to enter the interior of discourse in order to determine the rules that govern it and to describe the various relations among statements in a discursive formation.

B. Genealogy

1. Genealogy looks for the rules governing discursive practices having to do with power relations.

2. Genealogy takes an analytical approach with a wider scope than archaeology.

C. Methodological Principles for investigating bodies of discourse

1. Methodology of inquiry is characterized by the nature of data Foucault has chosen to study.

2. Methodology of the descriptive or transcriptive rests on the belief that the analysis of discourse should not be interpretive, rather, it should be available and understandable.

3. Methodology provides the means for an ascending analysis of power.

D. Foucault rejects the practice of relating a piece of discourse, or rhetorical act, to its specific author.

E. Foucault finds importance in the discovery of the role the individual plays and the rules that govern the nature of that rule.

V. Responses to Foucault (231)

A. Criticism

1. Foucault's style of writing has been described as "reckless, irritating and frequently unfathomable...and obscure."

2. Foucault uses deceptively ordinary words in ways that are highly specialized.

3. Foucault fails to take into account relevant bits of evidence to support the existence of a particular episteme or discursive formation.

4. Foucault ignores evidence that contradicts his thesis by overlooking the pre-nineteenth century writings of Aristotle, Locke and Vico.

5. Foucault's works has been criticized as being inconsistent.

B. Laudations

1. In his later writings, Foucault took on a more direct, down-to- earth style.

2. Foucault has been acclaimed for his writing's breadth and originality.

3. In his body of work, Foucault contributed greatly to rhetorical theory with his study of the speech act, discursive formation. and power.

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