Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

‘In the Western imagination, reason has long belonged to terra firma. Island or continent, it repels water with a solid stubbornness: it only concedes its sand. As for unreason, it has been aquatic from the depths of time and that until fairly recently. And more precisely oceanic: infinite space, uncertain … Madness is the flowing liquid exterior of rocky reason.’

‘Dans l’imagination occidentale, la raison a longtemps appartenu à la terre ferme. Ile ou continent, elle repousse l’eau avec un entêtement massif : elle ne lui concède que son sable. La déraison, elle, a été aquatique depuis le fond des temps et jusqu’à une date assez rapprochée. Et plus précisement océanique : espace infini, incertain… La folie c’est l’extérieur liquide et ruisselant de la rocheuse raison.’

Michel Foucault, (1994) [1963] ‘L’eau et la folie’. In Dits et Ecrits vol. I. Paris: Gallimard, p. 268. [This passage translated by Clare O’Farrell]

2 thoughts on “Foucault quote: Water and madness

  1. lashend says:

    I’d never read that passage; thank you.

    It makes come to mind another historical-philosophical water-borne reflection, and it’s one I love: Illich’s H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness. If anyone is interested, you can find a freebie version online in the (Spanish) Obras Reunidas collection (2008, ed. Borremans and Sicilia). (I can’t find an easily available English version.)

    1. Clare O'Farrell says:

      Sometimes – particularly in the 1960s, Foucault comes up with these lovely poetic passages. They are enjoyable just from a literary point of view.

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