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Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984)


French philosopher and historian, Professor of the History of Systems of Thought at the Coll?ge de France from 1970 until his death in 1984, revolutionized the academic study of the history of medicine, sexuality, penality, the liberal state and classical ethics, and contributed to the philosophy of language and aesthetics.
Michel Foucault
From the discovery of that necessity which inevitably reduces man to nothing, we have shifted to the scornful contemplation of that nothing which is existence itself. Fear in the face of the absolute limit of death turns inward in a continuous irony; man disarms it in advance, making it an object of derision by giving it an everyday, tamed form, by constantly renewing it in the spectacle of life, by scattering it throughout the vices, the difficulties, and the absurdities of all men. Death's annihilation is no longer anything because it was already everything, because life itself was only futility, vain words, a squabble of cap and bells. The head that will become a skull is already empty.
Foucault quotes
The most defenseless tenderness and the bloodiest of powers have a similar need of confession. Western man has become a confessing animal.
Foucault
A law which excludes all dialectic and all reconciliation; which establishes, consequently, both the flawless unity of knowledge and the uncompromising division of tragic existence; it rules over a world without twilight, which knows no effusion, nor the attenuated cares of lyricism; everything must be either waking or dream, truth or darkness, the light of being or the nothingness of shadow.




Foucault Michel quotes
What is constitutive is the action that divides madness, and not the science elaborated once this division is made.
Foucault Michel
There are more ideas on earth than intellectuals imagine. And these ideas are more active, stronger, more resistant, more passionate than "politicians" think. We have to be there at the birth of ideas, the bursting outward of their force: not in books expressing them, but in events manifesting this force, in struggles carried on around ideas, for or against them. Ideas do not rule the world. But it is because the world has ideas (and because it constantly produces them) that it is not passively ruled by those who are its leaders or those who would like to teach it, once and for all, what it must think.
Michel Foucault quotes
Foucault is an interesting case because I'm sure he honestly wants to undermine power but I think with his writings he reinforced it.
Michel Foucault
A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest.
Foucault Michel quotes
I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it? What is true for writing and for a love relationship is true also for life. The game is worthwhile insofar as we don't know what will be the end. My field is the history of thought. Man is a thinking being.
Foucault
L’important, c’est que le sexe n’ait pas été seulement affaire de sensation et de plaisir, de loi ou d’interdiction, mais aussi de vrai et de faux.
Foucault Michel
Homosexuality appears as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphroditism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.
Michel Foucault
Between these two unique and symmetrical events, something happens whose ambiguity has left the historians of medicine at a loss: blind repression in an absolutist regime, according to some; but according to others, the gradual discovery by science and philanthropy of madness in its positive truth. As a matter of fact, beneath these reversible meanings, a structure is forming which does not resolve the ambiguity but determines it. It is this structure which accounts for the transition from the medieval and humanist experience of madness to our own experience, which confines insanity within mental illness. In the Middle Ages and until the Renaissance, man's dispute with madness was a dramatic debate in which he confronted the secret powers of the world; the experience of madness was clouded by images of the Fall and the Will of God, of the Beast and the Metamorphosis, and of all the marvelous secrets of Knowledge. In our era, the experience of madness remains silent in the composure of a knowledge which, knowing too much about madness, forgets it. But from one of these experiences to the other, the shift has been made by a world without images, without positive character, in a kind of silent transparency which reveals— as mute institution, act without commentary, immediate knowledge—a great motionless structure; this structure is one of neither drama nor knowledge; it is the point where history is immobilized in the tragic category which both establishes and impugns it.




Michel Foucault quotes
... a passion which has found with madness the perfection of its fulfillment.
Michel Foucault
There has been an inversion in the hierarchy of the two principles of antiquity, “Take care of yourself” and “Know yourself.” In Greco-Roman culture, knowledge of oneself appeared as the consequence of the care of the self. In the modern world, knowledge of oneself constitutes the fundamental principle.
Foucault quotes
Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.
Foucault Michel
One can say that the author is an ideological product, since we represent him as the opposite of his historically real function. (When a historically given function is represented in a figure that inverts it, one has an ideological production.) The author is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning.
Foucault Michel quotes
The truth is that Foucault knew very little about anything before the seventeenth century and, in the modern world, outside France. His familiarity with the literature and art of any period was negligible. His hostility to psychology made him incompetent to deal with sexuality, his own or anybody else’s. The elevation of Foucault to guru status by American and British academics is a tale that belongs to the history of cults.
Michel Foucault
The pastorate was formed against a sort of intoxication of religious behavior, examples of which are found throughout the Middle East in the second, third, and fourth centuries, and to which certain Gnostic sects in particular bear striking and indisputable testimony. In at least some of these Gnostic sects, in fact, the identification of matter with evil, and as absolute evil, obviously entailed certain consequences. This might be, for example, a kind of vertigo or enchantment provoked by a sort of unlimited asceticism that could lead to suicide: freeing oneself from matter as quickly as possible. There is also the idea, the theme, of destroying matter through the exhaustion of the evils it contains, of committing every possible sin, going to the very end of the domain of evil opened up by matter, and thus destroying matter. Let us sin, then, and sin to infinity. There is also the theme of the nullification of the world of the law, to destroy which one must first destroy the law, that is to say, break every law. One must respond to every law established by the world, or by the powers of the world, by violating it, systematically breaking the law and in effect, overthrowing the reign of the one who created the world.
Michel Foucault quotes
The appearance in nineteenth-century psychiatry, jurisprudence, and literature of a whole series of discourses on the species and subspecies of homosexuality, inversion, pederasty, and "psychic hermaphroditism" made possible a strong advance of social controls into this area of "perversity"; but it also made possible the formation of a "reverse" discourse: homosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or "naturality" be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified.
Michel Foucault
Foucault revealed the universal truths hidden in societal extremes.
Foucault Michel
Delirium and dazzlement are in a relation which constitutes the essence of madness, exactly as truth and light, in their fundamental relation, constitute classical reason.


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