Chapter 7: Michel Foucault: How Power Affects Our View of Truth Michel Foucault

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6. Conclusion: The "End" Of Philosophy?

Some have talked a great deal about the end of philosophy, or metaphysics, or epistemology. This is all peculiar talk, in a way, since philosophy as a practice seems to continue on. But after Derrida, Lyotard, Caputo and Foucault (and the tradition they represent from Kant Hegel and Nietzsche to Heidegger and even Dewey), some would say that certainly a part of philosophy has died. In Epistemology, for example, traditional foundationalism and attempts at logical positivism have been left behind for dead. The attempt to annihilate the skeptic has just about run out of steam. The naive thinking that we could attain a God's eye perspective has been discredited, and so, killed. We realize that even science is not neutral, after Thomas Kuhn.

One can take Nietzsche's "God is dead" to mean at least in part "the notion of a God's eye perspective is dead". I take radical phrases like "the truth is that there is no Truth" to mean quite often, we have no certain apodictic truth with a capital "T".2 Any such claims are claims made in faith and hope, not certainty. Does this make wild-eyed skeptics to be too domestic? I don't think so. If you read much Caputo, or Derrida, or Lyotard or Foucault, you soon realize that they are not out to destroy tradition, they are out to reform it, from within itself.3 Deconstruction is not about destruction. It is about bringing out tension out which is already within the texts themselves, bringing about alternative motifs, marginalized voices within the texts. "Deconstuction means to complicate reference, not to deny it: it insists that there is no reference without difference, no reference (il n'y a pas) outside a textual chain (horstexte)"4 To brush Derrida aside by calling him historicist or revisionary is not only a misreading, it indicates a lack of reading any Derrida whatsoever. Derrida and the thinkers above-mentioned who are critical of various aspects of the tradition have not ushered in the end of philosophy, by their own account. Granted, there is talk about the "end of philosophy" or the "end of metaphysics" found in some of Derrida and other's writings, but if you read them in the context of their work, you will usually find that they qualify "philosophy" which is no longer tenable as "philosophy of presence", for example, in the Husserlian sense] What they have brought to the table are questions about the contextual and situational nature of our thinking and knowing, and these questions bring to an end a certain naive way of doing philosophy. They have brought out the part which our own minds, (Kant) our greed (Marx), sin (Kierkegaard), our will to power (Nietzsche) our neurosis (Freud), sentiment (James), our desire for self-sovereignty (Shestov), instrumental ends (Dewey), our intentionality (Levinas), our thinking in terms of presence (Derrida), and power relations (Foucault) play in our knowing.

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