Foucault’s political thinking is focused on the concept of power relations. Under the influence of Nietzsche he proposes two different accounts of how power is related to human action. Nietzsche had argued, on the basis of a reading of Kant’s antinomies of pure reason, for two different accounts of that relationship. On the one hand, he had sought to understand action as a phenomenon of the will to power; on the other, he had also spoken of the will to power (...) as an aspect of human agency. On Nietzsche’s views, we need to assert both positions even though they are for us irreconcilable. In his writings on power and action Foucault finds himself driven into adopting a similarly dual view. While he speaks of action in the nineteen seventies as subsidiary to power relations, he reverses himself in the nineteen eighties by treating power as a feature of human action. Just like Nietzsche, he offers us no way of reconciling these two distinct accounts. (shrink)
Following a suggestion made by Wittgenstein writing is treated as a manifestation of and model for thinking. An analysis of Wittgenstein's own writing as well as that of Plato, Kant, and Nietzsche reveals it as work carried out in multiple episodes of addition, deletion, and (re-)organization. Reflective writing of this kind is, in fact, a process of equilibration between local and global ideas which in philosophical work typically generates problems of coherence and closure. Non-reflective, immediate writing is not primary in (...) philosophy, but characteristically presupposes a process of reflective rehearsal. The classical conception of thinking as an apprehension of thoughts derives from the mistaken idea of the primacy of immediate writing. (shrink)
The situated thinker -- The world and its structure -- The limits of language -- The prodigious diversity of language games -- Families and resemblances -- Our unsurveyable grammar -- Visible rails invisibly laid to infinity -- What is the use of studying philosophy?
Wayne Martin's Theories of Judgment marks a significant advance in the philosophical analysis of judgment. He understands that the domain of judgment is so large that it allows only a selective treatment. We can expand Martin's insight by acknowledging that this domain is, in fact, hypercomplex and therefore unsurveyable in Wittgenstein's sense. Martin's treatment of judgments can, however, be extended in a number of directions. Of particular importance is it to understand the linguistic aspect of theoretical judgments, (...) the challenges to the synthetic conception of judgment constituted not only by existential, but also by impersonal and negative judgments, and the exploration of the links between the notions of judgment and truth. (shrink)
We can pinpoint almost to the day the moment at which Hannah Arendt became a political theorist, and we can name with precision the experiences that made her one. Born in 1906, she had led a substantially apolitical life until Hitler gained power and she fled Germany in 1933. In Paris, she became an activist, busy in Jewish refugee affairs but with little time for abstract reflection. The end of the war and her book on The Origins of Totalitarianism marked (...) a new but still only transitional phase in her life. The work is best understood as a piece of…. (shrink)
Wayne Martin’s Theories of Judgment marks a significant advance in the philosophical analysis of judgment. He understands that the domain of judgment is so large that it allows only a selective treatment. We can expand Martin’s insight by acknowledging that this domain is, in fact, hypercomplex and therefore unsurveyable in Wittgenstein’s sense. Martin’s treatment of judgments can, however, be extended in a number of directions. Of particular importance is it to understand the linguistic aspect of theoretical judgments, the challenges to (...) the synthetic conception of judgment constituted not only by existential, but also by impersonal and negative judgments, and the exploration of the links between the notions of judgment and truth. (shrink)
Frege subscribed neither to a correspondence theory of truth nor, as is now frequently argued, to a simple redundancy theory of truth. He did not believe, in other words, that the word "true" can be dropped from the language without loss. He argues, instead, that in a perfect language we would not require the term "true" but that we are far from possessing such a language. A perfect language would be one that is fully adequate in the sense that it (...) would allow us to state truths and truth-connections without ambiguities and contradictions. Ordinary language and the calculi we can construct on its basis are, on the other hand, always imperfect. In seeing these imperfections, Frege takes up an important line of late nineteenth century philosophical thinking which can be illustrated also by Nietzsche's reflections on language. Frege and Nietzsche draw, however, diametrically opposed conclusions from the thought that our language proves imperfect. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's remarks about family resemblance in the Philosophical Investigations should not be construed as implying a comprehensive theory of universals. They possess, rather, a defensive function in his exposition. The remarks allow one, nevertheless, to draw certain general conclusions about how Wittgenstein thought about concepts. Reflection on the notion of family resemblance reveals that kinship and similarity considerations intersect in it in a problematic fashion.
What is the role assigned to the author in Foucault's theory of discourse? An analysis of that theory reveals that Foucault speaks in it of the author only as a function of the discourse. But, it is objected, that ignores the causal role of the author in producing a discourse. Foucault's later concern with the self is seen as going beyond his earlier statements about the nature of the human subject. But while his work as a whole offers important insights (...) into the question of the author and the subject, he does not succeed in giving us a worked?out doctrine. (shrink)
Michael Dummett, following an established line of reasoning, has interpreted Frege as a realist. But his claim that Frege was arguing against a dominant idealism is untenable. While there are passages in Frege's writings that seem to support a realistic interpretation, others are irreconcilable with it. The issue can be resolved only by examining the historical context. Frege's thought is, in fact, related to the philosophy of Hermann Lotze. Frege is best regarded as a transcendental idealist in the Lotze-Kant tradition. (...) His contextual principle is a linguistic version of Kant's principle of the transcendental unity of judgment. By ignoring the historical context Dummett has been led to misinterpret the precise role of the contextual principle in Frege's thought. (shrink)