Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rereading Foucault

Me and some friends are reading Volume I of Foucault's History Of Sexuality. I couldn't be more excited. I'm amazed at the precision of the book. I first read it in the summer of 2009. I was working for NARA. I read it at work. I remember a young researcher commented on me reading it. I told him that I took a sociology of sexuality class where the teacher talked about how Foucault said this or said that and how I was ready to see if Foucault really said those things. That instructor certainly didn't lie to me. She told us what was useful for us in the scope of that class.

But man is there a lot going on in that book. Dense. Quite dense.

I've read a lot since then and I am pleased that the book is giving me a sense of how far my reading has come since I first read it.

One thing I'm struck with is how my thinking about Foucault always comes back to Collingwood. I see my reading of them as inseparable. They are both philosophical historians, or historical philosophers. Tough to say which. Both of them assert the primacy of history, but speak in philosophical language, and make claims that go beyond mere history. They both offer a type of study in which philosophical questions are approached as historical questions. They are methodologically similar.

Beyond their method, they share a deeper, more personal similarity. They both died young, never producing an authoritative statement of their thought. They both leave troubling oeuvres that prompt more questions than answers.

I'm in a position where I'm situating my thinking at the intersection of two authors that died of unfortunate circumstances. What to do with these two men who excite me with their incomplete statements? What to do when the minds that have stimulated me the most died before they could more fully develop their ideas?

I should also say that I'm far more committed to Collingwood. I see Foucault as invaluable, a massive mind and a crucial reference. But I think the implications of his project can be actualized most fully if synthesized into Collingwood's work. Because Collingwood anticipates Foucault's method. Foucault's notions of archeology, genealogy, and the aesthetics of existence are all implicated in Collingwood's work. Perhaps in a latent form, but he was already there and getting at the same issues. Right now I am trying to situate myself at the intersection of Collingwood's work on aesthetics, re-enactment, and metaphysics (as the historical study of absolute presuppositions). I really need to work on unpacking all of that.

Anyways, I am very excited to be rereading one of Foucault's books cover to cover. Quite a lot is going on in it. A lot is going on in my mind these days. I'm doing lots of thinking. I'm working on reading more. I'm working on a new essay apart from my large project. Onward and upward.

I can't help but give these philosophical historians my attention.

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