Doug Bruns

Sunday Repost: Foucault

In Life, Philosophy, Thinkers on January 27, 2013 at 6:00 am
Philosopher, Michel Foucault

Philosopher, Michel Foucault

Yesterday I finished James Miller’s overview of French philosopher Michel Foucault, The Passion of Michael Foucault. Miller relates the following story. It is 1975 and Foucault’s career is in full bloom. His reputation is international and he has accepted an invitation to the United States. It is proposed that he visit a Taoist commune at Mount Baldy in Southern California. It is night, there is a fire blazing.┬áThe philosopher and his hosts are sitting on the porch of a cabin. From Miller’s book:

One of the young men plaintively remarked that he felt completely lost.

“‘You have to be lost as a young man,’ Wade recalls Foucault replying.

“‘You are not really trying unless you are lost. This is a good sign. I was lost as a young man too.'”

“‘Should I take chances with my life?'” the student asked earnestly.

“‘By all means! Take risks, go out on a limb!’

“‘But I yearn for solutions.’

“‘There are no solutions,’ said the French philosopher firmly.

“Then at least some answers.’

“‘There are no answers!,'” exclaimed Foucault.

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  1. Is it only young people who “have to be lost”? How long are we allowed to be lost? Is it OK if I’m lost at 38?

  2. I had the same concern. The American philosopher, Robert Nozick said that when he was a young man he determined that he needed to understand and have an opinion about everything–a tall order he spent the rest of his life filling. I’m not sure the two notions square. Foucault implies an eventual state of not being lost in some relation to maturity. Nozick implies a life journey. We all know that learning and curiosity should and can be a life long exercise. I think Foucault truly came to a place of not being lost, as it applies to himself, a place of self understanding. Then he set about exploring that, that was his journey. He was compelled by Nietzsche’s admonition to Become what you are. Maybe they square after all. Regardless, I don’t think I’m likely to get there. I think I will be one of the lost old men. Hey, that would make a good epitaph: “Lost old man and knew it.”

  3. ye, best part of Nietzsche and Foucault’s philosphy, for me, is about autocreation, self-improvment and so on, by way of constant search, trying out new interpretations etc. That’s why they wrote about getting past ‘human’ as opposed to being old, boring, same entity as in Descartes. and others

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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