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


Philosophy as Arrogance and Self-Sovereignty



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8. Philosophy as Arrogance and Self-Sovereignty.

One need not give up an ideal, an indeconstructible goal that one continually strives for, but the important thing is to maintain the remembrance that omniscience is not mine to have. I want to know God, but I do not expect to know like God.

Is a demand for sovereign secure necessity a goal that is compatible with the Judeo-Christian tradition? It seems to me that such a search for security is more like an attempt to gain self-sovereignty much like the way Adam and Eve sought autonomy through taking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Shestov says of Hegel, "Hegel was not at all embarrassed to say that the serpent who had spoken the truth to the first man and that the fruits of the tree of knowledge became the source of philosophy for all time." Perhaps philosophy is to a certain extent a search for sovereignty. That makes it a very dangerous enterprise, and we should be quite concerned with developing self-critical habits through regularly listening to the critical voices within our tradition. Inasmuch as we marginalize and ignore these critical voices, aren't we just closing our ears to dissent, neglecting self-criticism and leaving ourselves available to naive arrogance? It seems that as Christian thinkers, we should of all people pay special attention to make sure we are forced into self-reflection and dialogical consideration of our opinions, and an ideal way to ensure that this happens is to read more of the philosophers of critique.

We must guard against the tendency in philosophy (which is the ‘modern’ which postmodern wants to get away from) to intellectualize ourselves right out of our own skins and contexts-- in short, to intellectualize ourselves right out of humanity. This epistemic concern arises out of a hyper-sensitivity to my finitude, sin, and limits, not because one is taken up with sexy french philosophy written by “radicals.”

It is ironic that, apart from Augustine and Kierkegaard and Shestov, that it has been primarily non-Christians of the likes of Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Dewey, Derrida and Foucault who have best brought critique to the tradition in terms of the limits of human understanding, though this appears to be the very sort of thing Christians should be bringing up. What could be appropriate for a Christian philosophy, particularly Reformed Christian philosophy, than to bring up the ways sin, finitude and ignorance are realities in our lives? Certainly Caputo, Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard stand strongly against marginalization, alienation, and manipulation, and Christians can certainly stand against these things as well. When this is realized, we can begin to sensitively find appreciation for these thinkers, rather than fear and (at times) loathing.5




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