Foucault's Archaeology: Science and Transformation

By David Webb | Go to book overview

Part IV: Archaeological
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1. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE HISTORY OF IDEAS

Foucault writes that his aim has been to develop a method that is ‘neither formalizing nor interpretative’ (AK 151, 177). In steering a path between structuralism and hermeneutics, he is implicitly following the programme for historical analysis that Serres proposed in 1961.30 But he is gripped by the doubt that the weighty apparatus he has put in place has served only to conceal that the form of analysis he proposes in fact remains within the framework of the history of ideas. Having set out the archaeological method, its terms and structures, Foucault therefore turns to consider what it means for the way historical analysis is actually conducted. In doing so, his overriding concern is to distinguish archaeology from the history of ideas.

A history of ideas can take several forms and for this reason it is not easy to pin down. Foucault identifies two principal characteristics. First, it hands over the history of the developed sciences to specialist studies and takes as its focus the margins that have either contributed in one way or another to science, or else which never gained the authority of other branches of study and faded from view: the history of alchemy, of phrenology, or of newspapers, the history ‘of opinions rather than of knowledge’ (AK 153, 179). Second, it charts the boundaries between existing disciplines and the exchanges that have taken place across them, and it records the rise and fall of disciplines, the emergence and disappearance of themes. Putting these characteristics together, the history of ideas describes the transition to philosophy, science, or literature (or whatever it may be) from what is then presented as a primitive stage to be left behind. However, rather than treating this as a sharp (epistemological) break, in a manner reminiscent of Bachelard, the history of ideas analyses the ‘silent births, [and] distant correspond-

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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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