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TheScuSpeaks

I am taking a course with Spanos

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It may be the last he teaches, so I figure I had better go ahead and take it. Anyway, it is entitled "Foucault, Said, and Globalization." And it's crazy, because he talks just like he writes in America's Shadow. I still don't agree with a lot of what he has to say, but somehow I like him as a person so far.

 

Still weird to be sitting there in class and have him randomly go, "that is the problem of calculative thought."

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I think it's been posted on Cross-x somewhere that Spanos does know debaters are out there bastardizing his works.

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I think it's been posted on Cross-x somewhere that Spanos does know debaters are out there bastardizing his works.

 

Understatement.

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Well, I have attended only two classes (one week) so far. So not much. Mostly we have been talking about Heidegger, and particularly the relationship between Heidegger and Foucault. His argument is that Foucault changed from his structuralist/proto-post-structuralist books of madness and civilization, order of things, archeology of knowledge, etc. to a fully post-structuralist foucault because of Nietzsche, but it was Heidegger's Nietzsche that did this to foucault (I disagree here, but to go on). However we should hold Foucault and Heidegger in a relationship of Polemos (ie, one of strife and struggle, a dialectic relationship without final subsumption), because we need to ontologize power, which Foucault doesn't do, but we need enough of a genealogy that we don't stop paying attention to the world around us (ie, Heidegger's profound naivety with regards to national socialism [i also disagree that Heidegger was just profoundly naive in regards to the nazis]). In this way Spanos is somewhat close to Agamben that wishes to ontologize Foucault's notion of power and to root it the roman understanding of the world. I plan to ask Bill Spanos what he sees as the difference between his work and Agamben's at some point.

Anyway, this is will take us to the work of Edward Said, whom of course Foucault was a profound influence. Spanos argues that it was the post-structuralist Foucault of Discipline and Punish that was the biggest influence to Said (I agree with this, btw), and that a lot of scholarship on Said focuses on using the structuralist or proto-post-structuralist Foucault in order to pervert Said's relationship to Foucault. Particularly we are going to exam the relationship between humanism and agency in our readings.

 

I know the emails that have circulated around about Spanos and debate. I haven't talked to him about it, but Joe (the head coach here) has, and says that Spanos has mellowed his posistion. I may talk to him about it at some point, but not till after my presentation in the class. Convince him I'm smart then bring up being in debate. Any discussions I have with Spanos about debate I will report to cross-x, don't worry.

 

No, I don't think I will record his lectures, but I know Joe did for another class and posted them online, I will try to go and post the link to those later.

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I will occasionally post what I found to be interesting in class today here in this thread. It won't be whole class notes, no reason for that. And I should note that I find my classes with Maria Lugones and William Haver to be far more interesting, but because there is a great deal of fimiliarity with Spanos' work in the debate world, and because there is a great deal of interest in Spanos in the debate world, I will actually post about his work.

 

Another note, for those of you who are greatly familiar with his book America's Shadow (and perhaps his other books that I have not read), you might find what I have to say to be already known.

 

 

Now onto the interesting things from class.

 

So as most of you know the Greek word for truth was aletheia, which didn't mean truth so much as unconcealment. [1] Or to put it another way, aletheia was not seen as an opposition to the false. The truth had no binary opposition to the false for the Greeks. This opposition did not begin until the Roman transformation of aletheia into the Latin veritas, which was opposed to the false. This dichotomy is the binary that all Western binaries are dependent upon. Truth vs. False, Man vs. Woman, Human vs. Animal, Light vs. Dark, Roman vs. Barbarian, Occident vs. Orient, etc. This Roman binary is the basis for the conception of humanism that originates in Rome. With this we turn now to Heidegger's "Letter on Humanism" [2]

 

"Considered explicitly by name, humanitas is reflected on and striven for in the time of Roman republic. Homo humanus contrasts with homo barbarus. Here homo humanus is the Roman, who exalts Roman virtus and ennobles it with the "incorporation" of παιδεία [paideia/education] taken over from the Greeks. The "Greeks" are the Greeks of the Hellenic world whose character was formed in schools of philosophy. It <humanitas> is concerned with eruditio et institutio in bonas artes [scholarship and training in the fine arts][3]. Παιδεία so understood is translated by `humanitas'. The authentic romanitas of homo romanus persists in such humanitas. In Rome, we come upon the first humanism. There it remains in essence a distinctively Roman phenomenon which comes of the encounter of the Roman world with the education of the late Greek world. The so-called Italian Renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries is a renascienta romanitatis. Since romanitas is what matters here <in the Renaissance>, it is all about humanitas and thus about Greek παιδεία. However, the Greek world is always seen in its later form and this is seen as Roman. The homo romanus of the Renaissance is seen as the antithesis of the homo barbarus."

 

So from here we can gather a sort of brief genealogy of humanism by Heidegger (his genealogy continues off and on again in this essay). But we can see some interesting things here, which is the binary between homo humanus and homo barbarus. And that homo humanus elides into homo romanus, so that what emerges is that the world is divided into the Roman and the barbarian. But the Roman is not a racial division, so much as a division of culture and cultivation. It should now be pointed out that culture and cultivation share cognates with the latin word for colonialization. This is here where Foucault and Said come into play. Foucault because we need an analysis of how docile bodies are produced and trained. In Foucault's work this is mostly the bodies of soldiers and prisoners and workers, but in Spanos' work we find the docile body beginning with the Romans desire for training to produce homo romanus. Said moves in as a way to help us understand colonialism. So the barbarian was seen as provincial. I use this term deliberately because provincial is latin for "before being conquered." It isn't just that barbarians were not Roman, but that they were need of being conquered, and therefore colonized (i.e. "cultured and cultivated"). Why? Because Rome wished to extend a Pax Romana [Roman Peace]. This "peace" was created through imperial military forces constantly at war and a disciplinary training that produces "romans". [4] Following this, Britain during the height of its colonialism declared a Pax Britannica. And now we talk of a Pax Americana. This term is found in many places, but one of interest is in the paper "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For A New Century", which was put together by the Project for a New American Century. An organization that includes William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Khalizaad, Cheney, Richard Perle, Wolfwitz, Libby, etc. You get the picture. So we look at all the roman interventions to understand the move to create a pax americana.

 

 

[1] Of course this etymology, like all that will follow here are from Heidegger's work. You should know that his etymologies are frequently criticized for being tailored to his purposes, idiosyncratic, fanciful, fictious, and false. I actually forgive Heidegger for much of this, and enjoy his fanciful etymologies a lot, one of the few things about Heidegger I do enjoy. They strike me of Foucault's own fanciful etymology of archeology and Nietzsche's fanciful genealogy. So anyway, treat a lot of these etymologies with grains of salt.

Also, all footnotes are my own contribution, and are not what Spanos had to say.

 

[2] I will use the translation made by Miles Groth that can be found online here http://www.wagner.edu/departments/psychology/filestore2/download/101/MartinHeideggerLETTER_ON_HUMANISM.pdf

All bracketed translations are my own poor attempts, because Groth does not enjoy translating Greek or Latin it seems.

 

[3] While "bonas artes" should be literally translated as fine arts, it doesn't exactly mean what we mean by the term. It meant the arts of being Roman, it was the term for that which would give you knowledge for being a good Roman citizen-solider.

 

[4] As an aside, this is what the movie Serenity is all about.

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At what point did Foucault change from a structuralist to a photo-post-structuralist? And do you really think that he made the transition?

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Stop being so good at life. You're making everyone else look bad.

 

I'm not so good at life, just pretty decent at academia. But thanks :).

 

What points did your presentation cover?

I'll copy my presentation notes here, it has most of it, but it doesn't have the asides or the long ass foucault quotation that I cite in it.

 

Chapter 10, “The Human Sciences” could have as easily been entitled “The birth and death of the Human” or to put it another way, “the birth of the Human” which already implies the death, because if something can be born it can also die.

Humanity was born, or at least came into existence in the 19th century. The birth of humanity was co-terminus with the creation of the human sciences. Or perhaps even something more radical, it was the human sciences that gave birth to the human. To “Man” as such. Let me be explicit on this. It is not that the human scientists merely developed a field that already existed before the 19th century, or they took a space that had already been demarcated for the human and merely filled in a void, the human scientists invented the human as an object for knowledge. To understand the relationship of the human sciences let us pause a moment on a figure provided to use by Foucault. It’s a rather longish quotation. And also, I don’t have a chalk board in here, but I really suggest drawing a trihedron, labeling the parts I am about to describe, I found it useful at least. (pp.246-257). So within these three planes we cannot anywhere find the human sciences. Except, for those of you who actually drew the trihedron, who will notice that the space in the center of the figure is completely empty. That is the space that the human sciences occupy. The modern episteme makes all knowledge a trihedron, and makes the human scientists the center of knowledge itself, connecting all points and parts on knowledge in some way.

Now some of you will be remembering how we discussed Labor, Language, and Life earlier, and you might be saying to yourselves, “But surely economics, philology, and biology have already made human beings the object of knowledge.” This would be something of a misunderstanding. First of all it is clear that biology takes more than just humans as its object of study. And while economics and philology are concerned with activities that are probably only human, they are not concerned with humans as such. These disciplines could exam anything that engaged in exchange and production, or anything that engaged in making of words. The human sciences are certainly concerned with Labor, Language, and Life, but they are concerned with this triad as a way of representing the human back to the human. The human sciences are concerned with knowing the human so they can tell us what it means to be human, so they can demarcate what is human, and what is not human.

So the human sciences becomes concerned with contradictory pairs of concepts that come from the triad. From biology we become concerned with functions and norms, from economics we become concerned with conflict and rules, and from philology we become concerned with signification and signs. And while all the human sciences are to some degree or another concerned with each of these pairs, each pair delimites a particular discipline of the human sciences. Psychology becomes concerned with functions and norms, sociology with conflict and rules, and finally the study of literature and myth is concerned with signification and signifying systems. (aside: Each term represents a continous and also a discontinous way of understanding the human).

Okay, so again, some may be asking, What about history? Surely history was about the human. But again, this would be a misunderstanding. We need to understand the history of history, or, the historicity of history. Yes, we have had history in the west since at least the ancient greeks, but history was very different then. History was originally the history of all things (aside: the bios and zoe distinction). It was not until the 19th century that history became deliminated as the history of the Human. Generally it has been thought that history was mostly a matter or relating events until the 19th century, and expanded, but this would be wrong. History actually contracted. And of course has a very strange, and even somewhat dangerous relationship to the other human sciences. First, history provides what Foucault calls a home-land to the other human sciences, it provides an argument that the human existed before the human sciences birthed “man”. But also, it is dangerous becomes it takes away the ahistorical nature of the human sciences, it provides, and here is the key term, finitude.

So now we move from the birth of the human to the death of the human. Here Foucault focuses on three disciplines that are not quite disciplines, what Foucault terms counter-sciences. These three are psychoanalysis, ethnology, and linguistics.

Psychoanalysis is concerned with the unconsciousness, but particularly Death, Desire, and Law (we see these as the finitude of life, labor, and language). Why these three? Because in madness, or the irrational demands of death, desire and law, we find the limit of the human sciences, that which is human and yet profoundly non-human. (schizophrenia aside).

Ethnology appears here as a mirror of psychoanalysis. If psychoanalysis discovers the finitude of individual within the West, then ethnology discovers something outside the Western ratio.(aside:ratio). We find ways of engaging in life, labor and language that has nothing to do with psychology, sociology, and analysis of literature and myths.

And lastly this brings Foucault to linguistics. Why linguistics? Because it is the study of language in such a way that we find the opacity of language. So there was an enlightment view that language is transparent carrier of meaning, but in linguistics we find that language has an opacity, a finitude of meaning.

Now we return to the idea of the ratio. Some of you might have noticed the amazing geometric beauty of this chapter. Trehdron, a 3-D figure that is itself Three-headed. Labor, language and life comes in three. But also the human sciences come in three with sociology, analysis of literature, and psychology. And then three counter-sciences, ethnology, linguistics, and psychoanalysis. So three threes in this chapter. But yet two things escape this ratio. The first is history, which we discuss as the turning point towards finitude, and lastly also that which Foucault ends on, literature. Foucault cites Artaud, Roussel, Kafka, Bataille, and Blanchot as this new literature, which is concerned with meditations on language as such, the experience of language. They take language and push it to its limit, they perform what Heidegger says is our task in his essay on “On the way of to Language”, where Heidegger says we must bring language as language to language. In this literature we find language brought to its opacity, to its own foreign land, to its own schizophrenic quality. In short, language begins to what Deleuze calls stutter. In this stuttering, “Man’s” finitude, that which exists outside all ratio, becomes apparent. Just as Nietzsche declared the death of God, we find that “man” might also be passing away.

 

 

 

 

 

So that was my presentation. Here are some thoughts and questions. (1) Do you feel that Foucault’s treatment of psychoanalysis and ethnology is too romantic or gentile for fields that historically have been pretty violent. (2) Heidegger’s “genealogy” of humanism found in his letter on humanism starts humanism as you will remember with the Romans, and the humanities as a way of knowing what is human, or homo romanus. How does this relate to Foucault’s thought of the invention of the human and of the human sciences, not the humanities, as the production of the human. (3) Our understanding of life has changed dramatically since Foucault’s time. It has gone molecular and genetic. So one can talk of a recombinant biopower as Michael Dillon does or a molecular biopower as Nikolas Rose does. So is "man" really disappering? Or simply changing and moving to something like “the gene,” who takes the place of God and Man (see the works of Richard Dawkins who treats the gene as fetish and transcendental ground).

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At what point did Foucault change from a structuralist to a photo-post-structuralist? And do you really think that he made the transition?

 

Do I? I dunno. I think that Spanos is saying that befoure Foucault's archaeological career he tended to oscillate between structuralism and this proto-post-structurialism (a term I snicker at, but enjoy). So for example, Madness and Civ. is proto, the last three chapters of the Order of things is proto, etc. But then with Discipline and Punish we see the emergence of a fully post-structuralist Foucault (and I don't know what Spanos thinks is going on with the hermeneutics of the self project near the end).

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So he has three books coming out, but they are all some time away from being able to buy (all within the next two years).

 

One is on american exceptionalism

 

One is on Edward Said.

 

One is on Hermann Melville

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