Foucault's Archaeology: Science and Transformation

By David Webb | Go to book overview

PART I: Introduction

Historical accounts can be pitched at different levels and these will generally change at different rates. ‘Deeper’ strata, such as the histories of sea routes or crop rotation, move more slowly than the ‘surface’ histories of governments and wars, and this means that different kinds of methodological questions are asked. A concern with how to establish causal sequences or whether totalities can be defined from a nexus of relations gives way to questions over what type of strata should be isolated for study, and the periodisation that should be adopted (AK 4, 10). While the focus in history was moving towards patterns on a large scale, specific histories dealing with strands of culture and knowledge (e.g., the history of ideas, of science, or of literature) appeared to move in the opposite direction towards a concern with rupture and discontinuity. The figures Foucault mentions in outlining this second tendency are among those whose work is most clearly a point of reference for the analyses that follow: Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, Michel Serres and Martial Guéroult.

Of these, Bachelard arguably made the most influential contribution through his understanding of science as an open and episodic invention of new realities that are not drawn from empirical experience. Although Foucault does not mention them in the Introduction, Bachelard’s convictions that philosophy should learn lessons from the mathematical sciences, and that it should not impose on scientific thought a conceptual framework that science itself had left behind, were also both important for the notion of discourse and its analysis that Foucault introduces in this book, as was Bachelard’s writing on temporal atomism, or the arithmetisation of time (these themes are discussed in the section on Bachelard above). Canguilhem recognised that concepts have singular histories that do not usually conform to the pattern of gradual refinement, and focused attention on how the rules that determine the use of

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Foucault's Archaeology: Science and Transformation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Abbreviations vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Background 5
  • 1- To What Problem Does the Archaeology of Knowledge Respond? 7
  • 2- Gaston Bachelard- Construction and Temporal Discontinuity 11
  • 3- Jean Cavaillès- Grounding Thought in Its Own History 16
  • 4- Michel Serres- Mathematics, Epistemology, History 22
  • 5- Michel Serres- Atomism 28
  • 6- The Mathematical a Priori 31
  • 7- Temporal Dispersion 34
  • Commentary on the Archaeology of Knowledge 39
  • Part I - Introduction 41
  • Part II - The Discursive Regularities 48
  • Part III - The Statement and the Archive 85
  • Part IV - Archaeological Description 120
  • Part V - Conclusion 152
  • Closing Remarks 159
  • Notes 166
  • Selected Bibliography 174
  • Index 178
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