Foucault: Foreword to The Order of Things

to paraphrase Richard Bach''s Illusions, everything here may be wrong...


Foucault, Michel. Foreword. The order of things : an archaeology of the human sciences. Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. ix-xxiv. Print.


Foucault terms this foreword a "directions for use." Text draws from initial hypothesis-- the history of non-formal knowledge had itself a system (x). Cautions that this is a comparative study among disciplines. Does not approach classifiying using standard chronos distinctions. Sees relationships differently, as "network of analogies" (xi). Would like to do is "reveal a positive unconscious of knowledge; a level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is part of scientific discourse, instead of disputing its validity and seeking to diminish its scientific nature" (xi). Interested in how people form/classify knowledge.


Acknowledges that he puts forth questions without answers, and admits to three problems with the text:


The problem of change: work doesn''t deny it (as some claim) but appears that his problem is the way that changes are often categorized historically (which leads to next problem)


The problem of causality: (did a influence b historically). Resists reducing events to such factors. Prefers to simply describe the transformations (who can prove what influenced whom and how much? not empirical).


The problem of the subject: notes that in distinguishing between epistemological and archaeological levels of knowledge, there''s still a subject (consciousness?) in the mix.


Writes:  "...I tried to explore scientific discourse not from the point of view of the individuals who are speaking, nor from the point of view of the formal structures of what they are saying, but from the point of view of the rules that come into play in the very existence of such discourse: what conditions did Linnaeus (or Petty, or Arnauld) have to fulfil, not to make his discourse coherent and true in general, but to give it, at the time when it was written and accepted, value and practical application, as scientific discourse--or, more exactly, as naturalist, economic, or grammatical discourse?" (xiv).


States that historical analysis of scientific discourse should be held not to theory of knowing subject but to theory of discursive practice.


Finally, emphasizes he is not a structuralist.