The Chomsky-Foucault Debate On Human Nature, New York: The New Press, , pp. Content of the transcript differs from the actual. As a glance at the transcript of the discussion between Chomsky and Foucault reveals, the debate was a fascinating insight into many features of their work, and . 3 quotes from The Chomsky – Foucault Debate: On Human Nature: ‘The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institut.

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Human Nature: Justice versus Power

For example, it threatens the social order in ways which might, one might argue, bring about fascism; and that foucwult be a very bad thing for America, for Vietnam, for Holland and for everyone else. The idea seems simple enough. So, what do the initial development of the dialogue and its subsequent failure show? In a first phase, each animal species belonged to a flock led by a genius-shepherd. I believe that you have been talking about a limited number roucault possibilities in the order of a scientific theory.

I will take an example by greatly simplifying it. Chomsky has to reintroduce the dilemma of the subject in the field of grammatical analysis. Let us suppose that we discover a domain of intelligence where human beings chosmky. In our contemporary society? Well, similarly in the intellectual domain, one is faced with the uncertainties that you correctly pose. The war’s savagery is also denounced, but that too, is used as a chomskj category What happened was that the notion of dwbate, the notion of the physical had changed.

For example, the fact that at a certain time madness became an object for scientific study, and an object of knowledge in the West, seems to me to be linked to a particular economic and social situation.

Mao Tse-Tung spoke of bourgeois human nature and proletarian human nature, and he considers that they are not the same thing. POWER 3 his lifetime with a certain amount of data, of direct experience with a language. It is, rather, he who, along with a handful of others, has at his disposal—whether in the service of the state or against it—powers that can either benefit or irrevocably destroy life.


I would say that the notion of life is not a scientific concept; it has been an epistemological indicator of which the classifying, delimiting and other functions had an effect on scientific discussions, and not on what they were talking about: No … there are just one or two little historical points.

Foucault and Chomsky Debate Human Nature – Sociology At Work

There is imperial terror and aggression, there is exploitation, there is racism, lots of things like that. It seems to me more likely that the transformations of biological knowledge at the end of the eighteenth century were demonstrated on one hand by a whole series of new concepts for use in scientific discourse and on the other hand gave rise to a notion like that of life which has enabled us to designate, to delimit, and to situate a certain type of scientific discourse, among other things.

One knows this in relation to the family; and one knows that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. He does so first by means of methodological arguments, then by means of the celebrated myth of the world revolving around its spindle.

When there is a problem for you to answer, what are your reasons for making a problem out of a personal question? The student movement changed these things to a small extent: All studies of man, from history to linguistics and psychology, are faced with the question of whether, in the last instance, we are the product of all kinds of external factors, or if, in spite of our differences, we have something we could call a common human nature, by which we can recognise each other as human beings.


Similarly, I think, one might ask the question whether physical science as known today, including biology, incorporates within itself the principles and the concepts that will enable it to give an account of innate human intellectual capacities and, even more profoundly, of the ability to make use of those capacities under conditions of freedom in the way which humans do.

Perhaps we can sort this out, not by analysing the scientific process, but just by analysing our own thought process. It becomes a matter of obtaining productive service from individuals in their concrete lives. That is, what defines behaviourism is the very curious and self-destructive assumption that you are not permitted to create an interesting theory.

A person who is interested in studying languages is faced with a very definite empirical problem. Where such an intersection exists, a human being can attain real knowledge. The American public is entitled, indeed obligated, to explore how good impulses came to be transmuted into bad policy, but we cannot afford to cast out all remembrance of that earlier impulse.

But there is more. POWER 41 It seems to me that the real foucaut task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.

But his duty was a glorious one: