Foucault News

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

Eric Schliesser, Hume, Husserl and Foucault’s The Order of Things, Digressions & Impressions blog, 12 May 2023

As I have noted before (recall), Hume plays a triple role in Foucault’s (1966) Les mots et les choses (hereafter: The Order of Things).* First, alongside a number of other familiar philosophers Hume’s works are treated as illustrations for Foucault’s claims about the nature of representation and knowledge in the episteme of the so-called ‘classical’ period. In such cases Foucault assumes considerable knowledge about Hume among his implied audience. That Foucault can do so is explained by the second role Hume has, that is, of being a familiar steppingstone in a narrative that undergirds the self-understanding of phenomenology which is treated as the ruling philosophical status quo by Foucault. This narrative is one of Foucault’s main targets in The Order of Things. However, and this is the third role, in characterizing the distinctive nature of the classical age, Foucault does single out Hume individually. And this is so because he can both assume familiarity with Hume (given the familiarity of Foucault’s audience with Hume as a steppingstone in their standard narrative) as well as render Hume unfamiliar in virtue of his retelling of the story of early modern philosophy. In today’s post I am focused on Husserl’s role in these matters, especially the second role.

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