Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Windschuttle - 'Foucault as Historian'

"In 1966, Michel Foucault attracted a great deal of academic attention by coining the phrase 'the death of man'. His obvious allusion to Nietzsche's well-known proclamation of the end of religion in the phrase 'the death of God' drew a considerable notoriety to himself and to the then burgeoning school of 'anti-humanism'. By 'the death of man', Foucault wrote in his book The Order of Things, he meant the end of the humanist concepts of man as a creature ruled by reason and of history as a phenomenon governed by the decisions of powerful individuals. Instead, history was a process without a subject. Not only did men not make their own history but the concept of 'man' itself, he argued, was passé.

Foucault shared this thesis with other anti-humanist thinkers of the time, including the Annales school of French historians, all of whom regarded history as being driven by forces far more powerful than those of any individual. Anti-humanism's main proposition was that the autonomy of the individual subject was an illusion. The humanist tradition had been wrong to assign the central roles of human affairs to the conscious mind and free will. Instead, some strands of anti-humanism claimed that human behaviour and thought were dominated by the unconscious, and hence humanists should abandon their assumption that purposive behaviour was consciously directed. Others, like the Annales school, held that the impersonal forces of geography and demography governed the destiny of mankind." - The Sydney Line (site of the Australian History/Culture Wars ...).

Continetial Philosophy has posted a critique of Windschuttle's interpretation.

No comments: