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Being and Power - Heidegger and Foucault - Hubert L. Dreyfus

Being and Power - Heidegger and Foucault - Hubert L. Dreyfus

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Published by Paul Sid Wren
Being and Power - Heidegger and Foucault - Hubert L. Dreyfus
Being and Power - Heidegger and Foucault - Hubert L. Dreyfus

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Published by: Paul Sid Wren on Feb 25, 2014
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Being and Power: Heidegger and Foucault
Hubert L. DreyfusAt the heart of Heidegger's thought is the notion of being, and the same could be said of power in the works of Foucault. The history of being gies Heidegger a perspectie from which to understand how in our modern world
 hae been turned into
. Foucault transforms Heidegger's focus on
 to a focus on
 and how they became
. And, !ust as Heidegger offers a history of being, culminating in the technological understanding of being, in order to help us understand and oercome our current way of dealing with things as ob!ects and resources, Foucault analy"es seeral regimes of power, culminating in modern bio#power, in order to help us free ourseles from understanding ourseles as sub!ects.These rough parallels suggest that it might be illuminating to see how far the comparison of Heidegger's $%eing$ with Foucault's $&ower$ can be pushed. Do these terms designate euialent functions( Do Heidegger's epochs in the history of being match Foucault's regimes in the genealogy of power( To what e)tent do these two interpretations of our history lead these thinkers to critici"e our current cultural condition in similar ways( *hat does each see as the danger( How does each enisage resistance( And, of course, we must also ask whether these thinkers differ in any important ways(After all, Heidegger's early support of +ational ocialism and later recommendation of political passiity seem totally opposed to Foucault's emphasis on social freedom and his political actiism. -biously Heidegger is some sort of conseratie and Foucault clearly is on the left. %ut lest the striking difference between Heidegger's and Foucault's political attitudes makes this pro!ect seems hopelessly misguided, we must remember Foucault's comment on Heidegger in his last interiewFor me Heidegger has always been the essential philosopher ... /y entire philosophical deelopment was determined by my reading of Heidegger.This last remark of Foucault's, when his immanent death freed him to tell the truth een in &aris, forces us to ask how Foucault, in spite of his radically different political ethos, can nonetheless claim, in some important sense, to be following Heidegger(0. The Functioning of %eing and &ower.0t is important to reali"e at the outset that for Heidegger being is not a substance or a process. %eing, in early Heidegger, is $that on the basis of which beings are already understood.$ -ne might say that the understanding of being is the style of life manifest in the way eeryday practices are coordinated. A culture's understanding of being allows people and things to show up
 something ## people show up as heroes in 1reece and as aints in the /iddle Ages, for e)ample, and things for the Homeric 1reeks were flashing up to be admired, while for 2hristians they were creatures to be mastered and interpreted.&ut generally, the shared practices into which we are sociali"ed proide a background understanding of what counts as things, what counts as human beings and what it makes sense to do, on the basis of which we can direct our actions towards particular things and people. Thus the understanding of being creates what Heidegger calls a clearing 3
4. Heidegger calls the unnoticed way that the clearing both limits and opens up what can show up and what can be done, its $unobtrusie goernance 3
4.$For Heidegger the history of being in the *est has been the history of misunderstandings of the clearing. From &lato on, philosophers hae sensed that
something beyond ordinary beings was responsible for their e)istence as anything, but since the clearing always stays in the background ## or, as Heidegger puts it, withdraws ## philosophers hae replaced it with a highest being that is the ground of beings and the source of their intelligibility. For &lato the highest being was the good, for Aristotle the unmoed moer, for the 2hristians the creator 1od, and after the 5nlightenment it was man himself. Heidegger calls all these attempts to replace the clearing with a $beingest being$, onto#theology or metaphysics.*e will see later that, according to Foucault, power has suffered a parallel misunderstanding. 0n general, many of Foucault's difficult remarks concerning power make sense if we take him to be getting at a social clearing with an emphasis on the way the eeryday practices of indiiduals and groups are coordinated so as to produce, perpetuate, and delimit what people can think, do and be. For Foucault, power, like Heidegger's being, is no fi)ed entity or institution, but is incarnated in historical social practices. $-ne needs to be nominalistic,$ he tells us, $power is not an institution, and not a structure6 neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with6 it is the name that one attributes to a comple) strategical situation in a particular society.$ This strategical situation arises from specific indiiduals and groups opposing one another. These actions, taken together, open a social space in which people, things, and the real are defined. Like the clearing, power is productie. Foucault tells us $7&8ower produces6 it produces reality,$ that is, it determines what it makes sense to beliee and to do.For Foucault, power, as opposed to iolence, controls actions while nonetheless leaing them free&ower is e)ercised only oer free sub!ects, and only insofar as they are free. %y this we mean indiidual or collectie sub!ects who are faced with a field of possibilities in which seeral ways of behaing, seeral reactions and dierse comportments may be reali"ed.Like Heidegger, Foucault speaks of this non#iolent way of guiding action as goernance%asically power is less a confrontation between two adersaries or the linking of one to the other than a uestion of goernment. ... To goern, in this sense, is to structure the possible field of action of others.-ne might say, paraphrasing Heidegger, that power is that on the basis of which human beings already understand each other. As Foucault puts it0n the idea of goernmentality, 0 am aiming at the totality of practices, by which one can constitute, define, organi"e, instrumentali"e the strategies which indiiduals in their liberty can hae in regard to each other.ince Foucault is not interested in how
 show up but e)clusiely in
, $&ower$, which is normally used to describe the way goernments
 people's actions, seems an appropriate, if perhaps misleading, name for what controls the way people understand themseles and others. 0t should be clear that some type of power in this ontological sense, like some particular understanding of being, is essential to any society. According to Foucault, $A society without power relations can only be an abstraction.$00. 
and 1enealogy. Heidegger and Foucault agree that in the *est the clearing that goerns human actiity by determining what counts as a thing, what counts as human, and what it makes sense to do, is not static, but can be seen as falling into a series of epochs or regimes.
%oth Heidegger and Foucault, no doubt influenced by +iet"sche, begin their account of these epochs with a pre#history in pre#ocratic 1reece. Heidegger deotes many pages to showing that, although the pre#ocratics did not think about the clearing, they did not deny it either. They sensed that showing up or presencing depended upon what was absent or withdrawn. %ut this understanding was lost when &lato took the 1ood to be the purely present ground of the phenomena, and truth to be the correspondence of theoretical propositions to an independent reality.Foucault too points to the emergence of theory among the 1reeks as the great turning point in our history. The pragmatic and poetic discourse of early 1reek ciili"ation was destroyed by the rise of theoretical truth $The ophists were routed ... 7from8 the time of the great &latonic diision onwards, the 7&latonic8 will to truth has had its own history ...$ This change in the style of the practices presumably altered all aspects of 1reek life. For e)ample, Foucault tells us that $7T8he *est has managed ... to anne) se) to a field of rationality ... 7*8e are accustomed to such $conuests$ since the 1reeks ...$According to Heidegger, in the ne)t ma!or stage, the 9oman understanding of beings as finished works 3
4 ## produced rather than coming#forth or being#brought#forth ## set up the possibility of the medieal account of hierarchically ordered substances produced by a creator 1od.For the /iddle Ages ... to be in being means to belong within a specific rank of the order of what has been created ....Foucault has less than Heidegger to say about 1reek
, but he has much more to say about how the elf was produced, worked oer, and administered in Antiuity. He also gies, at the beginning of Discipline and &unish, his own brief description of the stage of hierarchical, top#down monarchical power.
+otes on History of %eing and &ower0. Heidegger on History of %eing.:.
 coming forth. Heroes and 1ods woosh up. eers.
 ## doesn;t depend on you sei"e the opportunity.<.
 a letting come forth. 2raftsman ## wood. Aeschylus, &ericles, democracy.=.>.
 bringing forth. &lato coers up the clearing. The craftsman responds not to the grain of the wood, but to the needs of the community. Aristotle training good habits. haping matter. &ure form. ?nmoed moer.@.production replaces training. 9oman understanding as finished works. Administration..
ens creatum
 /edieal understanding of %eing as creation.00. Foucault;s genealogy of regimes of power.:.Foucault on seers to say the truth is to make it happen.<.+othing on poiesis and &ericlean democracy.=.>.Foucault &lato routs the ophists. 7the ophists would turn eeryone into seers. i.e. endow eery one with the

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