Foucault: Preface to The Order of Things

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


Inspired by Borges''s "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius." Recognized that it''s not "impossible," just a function of human way of thinking. Asserts the "common ground on which such meetings are possible has itself been destroyed" (xvi). Language can only do so in an "unthinkable space" (xvii) (ceci n''est pas un pipe?). Categorization, it seems, is a random construct. Foucault questions "what is the coherence?" (xix). Recognizes that "''a system of elements''" necessary for "even the simplest form of order" (xx). Yet that order is conceived in and constructed by language (not of the things themselves).


Codes of culture (language, perception, values, techniques) establish empirical order.


Science/Philosophy explains why order "exists."


Between two is the space where theories as to how to order things and interpretation that the order involves is constructed (xxi). Foucault states:


between the already ''encoded'' eye and reflexive knowledge there is a middle region which liberates order itself; it is here that appears, according to the culture and the age in question, continuous and graduated or discontinuous and piecemeal, linked to space or constituted anew at each instant by the driving force of time, related to a series of variables or defined by separate systems of coherences, composed of resemblances which are either successive or corresponding, organized around increasing differences, etc. This middle region, then, in so far as it makes manifest the modes of being of order, can be posited as the most fundamental of all: anterior to words, perceptions, and gestures, which are then taken to be more or less exact, more or less happy, expressions of it (which is why this experience of order in its pure primary state always plays a critical role)...Thus, in every culture, between the use of what one might call the ordering codes and reflections upon order itself, there is the pure experience of order and its modes of being. (xxi)


Got that?


Expresses goal of work to analyze the above experience:


[the study] is an inquiry whose aim to rediscover on what basis knowledge and theory became possible; within what space of order knowledge was constituted; on the basis of what historical a priori, and in the element of what positivity, ideas could appear, sciences be established, experience be reflected in philosophies, rationalities be formed, only, perhaps, to dissove and vanish soon afterwards (xxi-xxii)


Concerned with episteme; "those configurations within the space of knowledge which have given rise to the diverse forms of empirical science" (xxii).


Notes revelation of two "Discontinuities": Classical-mid 17thC; 19thC as beginning of modern age.


Considers man a "recent invention" (two centuries old)-- speaking as knowledge concept.


Re-re-(de)fines study as a "history of resemblance" (xxiv).


It seems that Foucault is simply asking "How did this whole order thing come about?" I ask, "What are the implications of such a question?"-- question of institutional/authoritative structures. Could be anarchic!