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Foucault's Lecture On Kant
Juergen Habermas Thesis Eleven 1986 14: 4 DOI: 10.1177/072551368601400102 The online version of this article can be found at:

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2012 . &dquo. the experience of finiteness )ecame a philosophical incitement. between the almost serene scientific reserve of the scholar thriving for objectivity on the one hand. morally sensitive inellectual. I understood iis invitation as a call for a discussion (together with Hubert Dreyfus. In March 1983. obsessed with objectivity. was combined with the opposite element of passionate. and. I met Foucault only last year.Answering the ~uestion: What Is Enlightenment?&dquo.Foucault’s Lecture On Kant Juergen Habermas Foucault’s death came so unexpectedly and suddenly that one can carcely resist thinking that its circumstantiality and brutal contingency locument the life and teachings of the philosopher. the death of the 57-year old man seems an untimely event affirthe power of facticity. in Foucault the stoic attitude of the observer who keeps his precise distance. the political ritality of the by Javier Benyo on October 22. For Foucault. prevails over the painstakingly constructed neaning of each human life. which. and perhaps I did not understand him can only relate what impressed me: the tension.sagepub. He viewed the power contingency. self-consuming participation in the reality of the historical - noment. And yet. I 4 Downloaded from the. Nell. Naturally. on the other. which resists easy -ategorization. I imagine that Foucault dug through archives with the dogged energy of a detective in hot pursuit of evidence. Even from a listance. more from a stoical perspective than from the Christian frame of reference. subjectively excitable. ning the merciless power of time vithout sense or triumph. At the time I knew nothing of a lecure Foucault was preparing on this very subject. Foucault . vhich he ultimately identified with power per se.uggested that we meet with some American colleagues for a private conference in 1984 to discuss Kant’s 200-year-old essay.

(published fourteen years later). However.What is Enlightenment?&dquo. In this lecture one meets a different Kant . with the question of whether the human race is steadily progressing. Such a phenomenon.pure practical - reason. Richard Rorty.for this event is too great. Kant searches for an empirical foothold to ground these postulates of &dquo.based on a text which.The Dispute of the Faculties&dquo. where Kant reflects on the events of the French Revolution. and Max Weber to Horkheimer and Adorno. Foucault adds himself to this tradition. A republican constitution would guarantee the rule of law (Rechtzustand) internally as well as externally the autonomy of citizens under self-made laws as well as the elimination of war from the arena of international relations. the origin of an &dquo. in the openly expressed enthusiasm with which a broad public had fearlessly greeted these events as an attempt at a realization of principles of natural law. rather. the merely accidental and transitory.ontology of actuality&dquo. too interwoven with the interests of mankind not to be remembered by the peoples of the world and not to stimulate renewed at5 Downloaded from the.moral tendency&dquo. Kant clarified the endpoint in relation to which such progress could be measured. in a sense. in the last sentence of his lecture.sagepub. Surprisingly. &dquo. of the human race. cannot be forgotten. Foucault sees in Kant’s answer to the question &dquo. this was not exactly Foucault’s intention in this proposal. as I only realized in May of this year.Paul Rabinow. and Charles Taylor) of various interpretations of modernity . and. not in the French Revolution itself. Kant believes. of course.event of our time&dquo.Kant as the predecessor of the Young Hegelians. The dispute between the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Law deals. Here we do not encounter the Kant familiar from Foucault’s The Order of Things. but. the epistemologist whose analysis of finiteness forced open the gateway to the age of anthropological thought and human sciences (Humanwissenschaften). initiated modern philosophical discourse. leading through Hegel. as is well known. he finds this &dquo. Foucault relates the text of 1784 to &dquo. withdrawing philosophy from the True and Eternal and instead concentrating on what philosophy until then had considered the meaningless and non-existent. 2012 .com by Javier Benyo on October 22. to show that they are actually supported by an historically observable &dquo. Nietzsche. as the first to break seriously with the metaphysical heritage. In his Philosophy of Ethics (Rechtsphilosophie). He seeks an &dquo. when an excerpt from his lecture was published.&dquo. Foucault discovers in Kant the contemporary who transforms esoteric philosophy into a critique of the present to answer the challenge of the historical moment.historical indicator&dquo. indicating a disposition of human nature toward moral improvement .

’ with the relationship of modernity to itself. Kant emphasized that revolution can never produce that &dquo. Holderlin and the young by Javier Benyo on October 22.. If this is even a paraphrase of Foucault’s own train of thought.sagepub. the precursors of Western Marxism in general. Instead he involves diagnostic thought in that turbulent process of which acquires for him a new function self-assurance that forms the horizon of a new historical consciousness which has kept modernity in constant motion until the present. Foucault cites the famous sentences not entirely without. merges with the question &dquo. &dquo. Foucault himself all contribute to the honing of that modern consciousness of contemporary which made its appearance in philosophy with the question &dquo. Bataille and the Surrealists. The philosopher turns contemporary .What is Enlightenment?&dquo. emerges precisely in the enthusiasm for the revolution that had since taken place. the period of Enlightenment is still presented by the description it gave itself: it designates the entry into a kind of modernity which sees itself condemned to creating its self-awareness and its norms out of itself. Baudelaire and Nietzsche. as he asserts in &dquo. In the earlier text on the Enlightenment. The outlook schooled in eternal truths submerges in the detail of the given moment. the question arises: how does such a singularly affirmative understanding of modern philosophizing. on his own part. Foucault discovers Kant 6 Downloaded from the. A philosophy now engaged with actuality is concerned with the &dquo. Foucault relates the two texts in such a way that a synopsis emerges.&dquo. Philosophy is successfully merged with thinking stimulated by contemporary historical actuality. not least of all. and.rapport ’sagittal a propre actualite.&dquo. Thus. always directed to our own actuality and imprinted in the here-and-now. which.What does this revolution mean for us?&dquo. he emerges out of the anonymity of an impersonal endeavour and reveals himself as a flesh-and-blood human being toward whom every clinical investigation of each individual contemporary period that confronts him must be directed. MerleauPonty. From this perspective. Lukacs. fit with Foucault’s unyielding criticism of - possibilities.&dquo.true reform in thinking&dquo.What is Enlightenment?&dquo.&dquo.The Dispute of the Faculties. the question &dquo.tempts of this kind whenever conditions are propitious. Kant leaves behind the classical dispute over the exemplary preeminence of the ancients and the comparable stature of the moderns.desire for doing moral good. 2012 . Marx and the Young Hegelians. an archer who aims his arrow at the heart of the most actual features of the present and so opens the discourse of modernity. Even in retrospect. which is pregnant with decision and bursting under the pressure of anticipated as the first philosopher.

) Doesn’t this iceberg. frozen into an iceberg covered with the crystals of arbitrary formations of discourse? (This. he reinterprets the limits of our finite apparatus of cognition into the transcendental conditions for infinitely progressing knowledge. didn’t Foucault reveal in The Order of Things the peculiar dynamic of that will to truth which is stimulated anew by each frustration to an increased and in turn failed production of knowledge? The form of knowledge of modernity is characterized by the following aporia: the cognitive subject. In any case.progress toward betterment&dquo. the speculation about a state of freedom. we note certain precautionary measures against all-toostriking contradictions. have a much different dynamic than the actualizing thinking of modernity cares to acknowledge . Foucault explicitly (if only parenthetically) establishes 7 Downloaded from the. is enmeshed in an anthropocentric mode of knowledge. Foucault explicitly warns against the pious attitude of those who are out merely to preserve the remains of the Enlightenment. rises out of the ruins of metaphysics in order to take on. As Foucault demonstrates. Kant transforms this aporia into the structural principle of his epistemology. which inaugurates modernity. does not imply for us just an arbitrary period in the history of ideas. Only in the wake of this boundless will to knowledge arise the subjectivity and self-consciousness with which Kant begins. And this whole field is now occupied by the &dquo. in full awareness of its finite powers. the interpretation of revolutionary enthusiasm as a sign of historical &dquo. a project that would demand unlimited power.modernity? How can Foucault’s self-understanding as a thinker in the tradition of the Enlightenment be compatible with his unmistakable criticism of this very form of knowledge of modernity? Kant’s philosophy of history. a senseless back-and-forth of anonymous processes of subjugation in which power and nothing but power appears in ever-changing guises? Using Kant as an example.namely. However. To be sure. which Foucault perceives as an insidiously operating disciplinary power. A subject. having become self-referential. .com by Javier Benyo on October 22.sagepub.must not each line provoke the scorn of Foucault. is the view of his friend Paul Veyne. what it has achieved with its pretentious. thus structurally strained to the limits. at least. in no way resolved. 2012 . If we return to the text of Foucault’s lecture with these considerations in mind. the theoretician of power? Hasn’t history.&dquo. about world-citizenship and eternal peace. under what appears as the cynical gaze of the genealogist Foucault. claims is a dangerous facade of universally valid knowledge behind which in reality is hidden the facticity of domination of knowledge rooted in the will to power.sciences of man. under the stoic gaze of the archaeologist Foucault. the Enlightenment.

Now.the connection to earlier analyses. drawing him again into the circle of the philosophical discourse of modernity which he thought he could explode.analysis of truth& by Javier Benyo on October 22.sagepub. Up to now. however. under the altered conditions of their own time. of a modernity in search of self-assurance. they are captives of an &dquo. Kant entangled himself in an instructive contradiction when he declared revolutionary enthusiasm to be an historical indicator that reveals an intelligible arrangement of mankind in the world of phenomena. one is surprised that Foucault presents those subversive thinkers who try to interpret their own contermporaneity as the legitimate heirs of Kantian critique. He contrasts his critique of power with the &dquo. still in search of the universal conditions by which propositions can be really true or false. he presents it in a completely different light. Foucault traced this will to knowledge in modern power-formations only to denounce it. namely. Foucault sees himself as carrying on this tradition. Only a complex thinking produces instructive contradictions. Within the circle of the philosophers of my generation who diagnose our times.&dquo. in such a fashion that the former becomes deprived of the normative yardsticks that it would have to borrow from the latter. proceed from Kant’s epistemological question. For Foucault. he notes.analysis (A nalytik) of truth. 8 Downloaded from the. 2012 . which the &dquo. it can no longer be task to maintain Enlightenment and revolution as ideal models. first posed by Kant. They repeat that fundamental diagnostic question. Foucault rejects those thinkers who. Equally instructive is another contradiction in which Foucault becomes enmeshed. as the critical impulse worthy of preservation and in need of renewal. Much more important is an investigation into the particular historical motivating forces which have simultaneously prevailed and concealed themselves in universalistic thought since the late eighteenth century. own Translated by Sigrid Brauner & Robert Brown. the will to knowledge. Ths connects his our thinking to the beginnings of modernity. was unwilling to concede. the challenge of the Kant texts he has chosen is to decode that will once contained in the enthusiasm for the French Revolution. Perhaps the force of this contradiction caught up with Foucault in this last of his texts.analysis of truth&dquo. Foucault has most lastingly influenced the Zeitgeist. in pursuit of an abstract order. Despite these precautions. Today. not least of all because of the seriousness with which he perseveres under productive contradictions. assisted by David Levin.