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Ian Hunter - - In Elisabeth Ellis ed. Pennsylvania State University Press. Towards an Affective Structure of Subjectivity. The Revolution that Kant took to be a sign of progress, although "born of rationalism. Foucault's critique of humanism is consistent throughout his work. As he expressed it in a later essay, anthropological humanism takes various forms and can be seen evident in Christianity, Marxism, Existentialism, Phenomenology, even Nazism and Stalinism, says Foucault.

In addition a: 44 :. Humanism is. From this we must not conclude that everything that has ever been linked with humanism is to be rejected, but that the humanistic thematic is in itself too supple, too diverse, too inconsistent to serve as an axis for reflection. And it is a fact that, at least since the seventeenth century, what is called humanism has always been obliged to lean on certain conceptions of man borrowed from religion, science, or politics.

Humanism serves to color and to justify the conceptions of man to which it is, after all, obliged to take recourse.

In its more specific usage, however, humanism constitutes a condition of possibility of the Enlightenment episteme. It focuses on the study of Man placing the subject at the centre of life. Kantianism sees man as transcendental arbiter of reason and as both subject and object of knowledge, leading in Foucault's view to the fundamental incompatibilities in the conception of what man is and in the nature of modernist knowledge that he analysed in The Order of Things For Foucault, man cannot be seen as a foundation or origin or condition of possibility of discourse.

Kant's attempt to do so was part of his search for an original foundation "that would make rationality the telos of mankind, and link the whole history of thought to the preservation of this rationality" Foucault, Although Kant's 'analytic of finitude' made possible the sciences of man, man is placed in an unstable position as both the subject and object of knowledge. Hence, man emerges in the 'analytic of finitude' introduced by Kant as a "strange empirico-transendental doublet" because he is both the object of knowledge that which knowledge seeks to know about and the subject of knowledge that which strives after such knowledge.

Such a humanism introduces radical instabilities into the human sciences. As Hiley puts it:. Humanism or the analytic of finitude, then, is 'warped and twisted forms of reflection,' and all those forms of reflection that take man as the starting point, that talk of man's liberation, that attempt to reach the truth about man are caught in the futility of the doubles.

Humanism, then, involves the claim that man, for Kant, exists at the centre of the universe as a finite being who can reason within limits which he cannot go beyond.


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  • Such a notion generates insoluble contradictions for the human sciences because it is based on incompatible conceptions of what man, his history, and mind are. Foucault traces the play of these contradictions as they have emerged alongside of the empirical human sciences. Hence on the one hand our knowledge must be limited, as man knows himself as a finite being, as an objective of nature; on the other hand that finitude which establishes the limits of human understanding is claimed to be the condition that makes knowledge of this finitude possible Hence the possibility of knowledge is established on limits to reason which deny it Kant's transcendentalism is thus underpinned by an anthropological conception of the subject.

    Foucault opposes Kantian humanism in the same way he opposed the Cartesian conception of the atomized and disembodied Cogito at the centre of the universe. In this model, while the body is subject to the determinations of the laws of nature, mind is autonomous unto itself. In such a conception, knowledge is seen as grounded upon an incorrigible and indubitable foundation. Following Heidegger and Nietzsche, humanism, for Foucault, has a specific meaning which refers to the philosophical centrality or priority of the subject whose rational capacities, which are asocial and ahistorical, serve as a foundation anchoring objectivity and truth.

    As Fraser states, humanism 'is the project of making the subject pole triumph over the object pole" representing man as constitutor, as free, as all knowing, and as master of their fate and destiny. It is in defense of this philosophical anti-humanism that Foucault presents his reading and adaptation of Kant. In his introductory commentary to Kant's Anthropology Foucault argues that this work is much more important to Kant's overall project than has commonly been represented 6.

    By 'anthropology' Kant meant the actual empirical study of the human being, and in his Logic Kant suggests that anthropology might be regarded as the fundamental issue in philosophy, as all of the questions that he was centrally concerned with stem from the more basic question 'What is Man? Yet in order to establish knowledge as secure Kant distinguished between the empirical and the transcendental, positing specific laws of cognition in order to ground objectivity against skeptical attack.

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    Thus central to Kant's Copernican Revolution were 1 the establishment of lawful cognitive regularities to anchor objectivity, 2 the establishment of free will as a transcendental practice, and 3 the representation of human beings as constructing their moral and political worlds for themselves through the utilisation of the capabilities of reason. Although Kant believed that such a constructivism, if carried out according to the dictates of reason, would vindicate the traditional Christian idea of God, in Foucault's view the consequences of his transcendental critique was to establish human beings as having much greater creative capabilities than Kant had supposed.

    Hence, for Foucault 17 , as Miller recounts, "the world appears as a city to be built, rather than as a cosmos already given". In Foucault's view, then, Kant had failed to confront the constructivist implications that his insight regarding the transcendental power of human beings revealed.

    Course Notes – Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” – The Electric Agora

    As Miller expresses the point:. Instead of exercising the power of free will and imagining "a city to be built", Kant in his Anthropology tried to vindicate a "normative understanding", not only by codifying the kind of savior faire acquired in the course of everyday life, but also of accusing of "high treason" anyone who regarded such know-how as counterfeit and illusory. As Foucault sums up the argument of his thesis in The Order of Things , Kant's philosophy produces, "surreptitiously and in advance, the confusion of the empirical and the transcendental, even though Kant had demonstrated the division between them 8.

    What Kant's Anthropology also reveals, in Foucault's view, is the contextual historical character of the categories which take root in, and develop in the social and historical customs and practices of a specific society. In this context, the role of the philosopher is to understand the historical nature of the a priori through a detailed examination of the social and historical practices customs, language, habits, discourses, institutions, disciplines from which a particular style of reasoning emerges and develops.

    It is in this sense, for Foucault, as Miller puts it, Kant's Anthropology , far from being "a piece of crackpot pseudo science opens up an important new philosophical horizon". As Miller continues:. Despite its apparent eccentricity, Kant's book underlines for Foucault the manifold ways in which "the self, by becoming an object" of regulated social practices, "takes its place in the field of experience and finds there a concrete system of belonging".

    This system is "immediate and imperative", no human being may escape it; it is transmitted in "the regulated element of language," organized "without the intervention of a force or authority," activated within each subject "purely and simply because he speaks". For Foucault, the unresolved tension of Kant's philosophical project is that he fails to appreciate the contingent and historically contextualized character of all truth-claims, i. The transcendental character of Kant's argument resides in positing a priori categories which are deduced to constitute the consciousness of the human subject, as that which organizes perception as a timeless and universal structure.

    In this sense, Foucault rejects Kant's claims to have established the universal grounds for the conditions of possibility of human knowledge, and Kant's claims for transcendental reason are replaced for Foucault by a principle of permanent contingency. By extension, Foucault disputes Kant's claim to have established a secure foundation by which to differentiate different types of knowledge claims, relating to science, practical reason, or aesthetics. The objective is to switch from a conception of critique as being transcendentally grounded, to a conception of critique which conceives it as practical and as historically specific.

    Thus Foucault says:.

    Kant’s Account of Reason

    Criticism is no longer going to be practised in the search for formal structures with universal value, but rather as an historical investigation into the events that have led us to constitute ourselves and to recognise ourselves as subjects of what we are doing, thinking, saying. In this sense the criticism is not transcendental, and its goal is not that of making a metaphysics possible: it is genealogical in its design and archaeological in its method.

    Not "What can I know? How has the path of my knowing been determined? How have exclusions operated in delineating the realm of obligation for me? How have the parameters for my aspirations been defined? Foucault's genealogical project is then a critique of reason whereby he seeks to introduce, to use Thomas McCarthy's phrase "a sociohistorical turn" into the practice of philosophy. In order to explore "the nature scope and limits of human reason" we have to understand:. The critique of reason as a non-foundationalist enterprise is concerned with structures and rules that transcend the individual consciousness.

    But what is supraindividual in this way is no longer understood as transcendental; it is sociocultural in origin. McCarthy, Foucault thus adapts Kant to support his socio-historical conception through which individuals are constituted in relation to a world of already given practices of a determinate historical terrain.

    What Is Enlightenment

    In drawing on Nietzsche's method of genealogy, institutions and practices are historically investigated in order to trace the forms of power and lines of opposition between and amongst them. For Nietzsche our habitual modes of action and thought have an historical origin and bare the marks of conflicting individual wills to power of people, groups and classes in history.

    In On the Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche shows how our dominant moral codes emerged from the battle of classes and groups e.

    What is Enlightenment? (Immanuel Kant)

    Romans and Jews in the past. Genealogy seeks to trace the lines of the battles that have gone into making the world as we know it in the present, natural. In this sense it contributes to problematizing our taken-for-granted beliefs and conceptions about the way the world is. A further sense in which Foucault is anti-humanist arises in the writings of the s, specifically Discipline and Punish , the History of Sexuality , and in his writings on power see Foucault, a.

    In these works, Foucault is concerned with the role of the human sciences in the emergence and maintenance of normalization through disciplinary bio-power.