This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Foucault’s "philosophy" is about showing us how arbitrary the institutions of culture are and pointing to the freedom we can still find by breaking out of the web of unconscious programming, values and "thinking patterns" inherent in our culture. . Foucault argues that one’s time in history, one’s culture, the existing power structures within society, and the very structure of information approved and reinforced by this power structure defines and limits the freedom of the self. He wants to show us that we can get outside that structure of knowledge to freedom. In this freedom to escape our "inherited thought patterns" and the very "structure of language and thought itself" is an experience of heightened living and consciousness. In a sense, Foucault is talking about how we might escape the taboos, rules, values, expectations and morality imposed by our culture on thinking for our selves. . In order to pass out of the captivity of his thoughts, the individual must participate in discourses and analysis of issues which help him to break the hold of language and power. This discourse is conditioned by a number of post-Marxian assumptions about the modern world: . • A deep distrust of the power of institutions to control individual thought and behavior . • Language determines what reality is because it can only conceptualize what is in a culture’s structure of knowledge. The structure of knowledge is itself defined by the centers of power within a culture. Any discussion of "Truth" therefore is wholly a matter of language. Freedom and the passionate expression of our selves is not to be found in following the "rules" of culture or by staying within the bounds of any culture’s ideals, beliefs or values. . • Truth, like the Self, is not given but made by power and culture. Even our identities are shaped by culture, rules, laws, social norms. Our worldview is "made" by being projected from within on the world without and by coercion. . • Society conditions us and coerces us into an "approved Reality and set of approved Truths" in order to produce "normal" people who are willing to conform themselves to the demands of the institutions of power within society. . The aim of analysis is clarity and understanding leading to being a free person and creating a better world. . In this aim, Foucault shows that his real interest is transformation of the individual; the self will become someone other than the "self" defined for him by his time in history or the competing centers of power in his life or time. . For Foucault, the structure of knowledge within society at any time reinforces the
existing power centers and their self interested points of view. These "structures and orderings" underlying knowledge and information, act to trap the individual within the web of power and confine the mind. The individual is held "prisoner" by the very orderings of information and knowledge within his mind and confined to act in accordance with the interests of the power centers of society. Even morals, values, and ideals are defined by the centers of power. This "closes" the thought of individuals to new ideas by trapping him in the definitions, concepts, and system of logic employed by those power centers. Language itself becomes a trap confining thought and creativity. . Power, to Foucault, is a bad thing with terrible consequences for the psychological health of people. "Truth" is the desire for power and knowledge that can free us from control and power. The need is for individuals to realize that who they are is not this structured knowledge or interpretation of history nor is Reality what has been defined for us. We can free ourselves through experience and by breaking out of the thinking patterns of our time. . The unconsciousness of people for Foucault is not a moral issue. It is the responsibility of each of us to free ourselves from the prison into which we have been born. Therefore, the only people who can free prisoners in jails are the prisoners themselves; the only people who can free those in our insane asylums are the patients themselves; they must realize how they have allowed themselves to be institutionalized by accepting the definitions used by the authorities who have put them away. In fact, it is the experience of being in prison which creates criminals, and the experience of being committed for long periods of time in mental hospitals which truly makes the mentally ill "mad." To free ourselves, we must learn to think outside the approved and popular histories, beliefs, values, morals, philosophies, and logical systems until we find the missed interpretations and understandings of what is going on in history (because the "approved" view of Reality is always one that reinforces the existing and self-interested power centers in society). . We can understand ourselves only through a ’relentless comparison of our experience to knowledge and beliefs. Experience is the testing ground for truth. Discourse, debates, discussion can uncover the discrepancies in self definition. Then, the seekers might follow those discrepancies "out" through the gaps in information to explore popular myth to escape the popular world view. . Foucault says that finding one’s way to freedom is an art and requires: . • Not being governed by the beliefs, values or rules of society so as to seek truth . • Detaching one’s self from the jurisdiction of power by dissenting . • Recreating one’s personal history and self . • Studying the fictions of society themselves rather than trying to determine truth from fiction. Nothing is absolutely true, even the "self" you believe yourself to be. .
One must face the limits of the indoctrination one has been given by parents, society, and religious centers on what is true, right, wrong, taboo, unpatriotic, not responsible etc and see that these are mostly limits on freedom of the individual so as to control behavior approved by power and the institutions of power in society. . Foucault points out that modern mass culture differs from the preceding feudal system in Europe by an invasive technology which enables the centers of power to maintain constant observation of individuals and to create legal, educational, policing and moral systems with the aim of controlling the lives of individuals. "Discipline" systems are used to train people in desired activities, attitudes, self concepts, and moral values. "Punishment" systems are used to reinforce these values. And financial and power "reward" systems encourage approved behavior. . These power centers all share the aim of producing "normal people" who meet the requirements of industry, the military, and the churches--essentially making the masses suitable for meeting the interests of the centers of power. Those who do not "fit in" are defined as misfits, insane, criminals, rejects, unpatriotic, depraved, etc. When those who do not "fit in" ACCEPT these labels, they are condemning themselves. They condemn themselves because they have been programmed by the structure of knowledge approved by society to accept these judgments as logical and necessary. Those accused of being criminal thus are lead by their own logic into agreeing that they are criminals. Those accused of being mentally ill are lead by their own logic into agreeing that they are mentally ill. . If they realize they have been programmed, individuals can experience "morality" in a markedly different way than the way morality is espoused by economic, political, or religious authorities in society. Such individuals can point out the "shadow" side of popular moral judgments and power. . He continues: . ...once one steps outside what’s been thought before, once one ventures outside what’s familiar and reassuring, once one tries to invent new concepts for unknown lands, then methods and moral systems breakdown and thinking becomes ...’a perilous act,’ a violence whose first victim is ones self. . Those who are able to break out of the thinking patterns approved by the power centers within society are then able to articulate a strategy by which others may do so, and this is ultimately de-stabilizing to the balance of power in society. Therefore, those power centers will turn on that individual recognizing him as a threat and strive to destroy him before he can disturb their interests. This has happened to many intellectuals through history whose thought lead them outside the prevailing economic, political, moral and cultural values of their time: Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegard and Martin Heidegger are only three examples. . On the other hand, the individual who breaks out of the prison of knowledge inherited
from society also experiences a dissolution of his own psychic structure, for once the self-evident nature of thought breaks down the psyche is left without a workable structure and must be reconstructed. The consequences may be mental confusion and melancholy. This disorientation can be lessened by such activities as spending time in Nature, addressing physical needs rather than intellectual, doing physical things and work, and spending time in solitude. . .. Foucault’s approach is similar in many respects of the philosophy of Taoism espoused by Lao tze in his 1500 year old book "Tao te Ching."
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.