Foucault News

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

Nikolaas Cassidy-Deketelaere. The Normal and the Phenomenological, Paris Institute, February 10 2023

In his introduction to Georges Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological, Michel Foucault makes an observation that we nowadays seem increasingly at risk of forgetting: far from being irreconcilably opposed to one another, the two main theoretical styles of continental philosophy—i.e., phenomenology and critical theory—are both rooted in Edmund Husserl’s attempt at establishing philosophy as a rigorous science. In other words, both the “philosophy of experience, of sense and of subject,” like that of Jean-Paul Sartre or Maurice Merleau-Ponty, as well as the “philosophy of knowledge, of rationality and of concept,” such as found in Jean Cavaillès or Gaston Bachelard, are ultimately phenomenological in aspiration, namely as “two modalities according to which phenomenology was taken up in France.”1 This ought not to be surprising, as Husserlian phenomenology (reacting to psychologism) and critical theory (reacting to early sociology and aided by Karl Marx) are both fundamentally antipositivist projects: the experience in which science takes nature to be given as simply there is inherently naïve; instead, experience gains its meaning and validity only in logical connection. The failure to secure these logical structures is what produced the notorious ‘crisis’ of the European sciences.
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