Foucault and Epistemology PHI 637 Spring 2003


Wednesdays 2:00-5:00

Harriman 249
Linda Martín Alcoff
Office: 128B Old Chem and Harriman
Office Hours: Tuesdays 3:45-5:45

Course Description:

This course will provide an extensive analysis of Foucault's works, focusing on his conception of knowledge and the implications of this conception for contemporary epistemology as well as the social sciences. A major question we will pursue is how to understand his claim that there is a constitutive relationship between knowledge and power. Does this account, as his many critics claim, effectively reduce knowledge claims to the strategic effects of power? What are the implications of the constitutive relationship between knowledge and power on the project of epistemology itself? Most of the course will be spent on Foucault's own writings spanning the three major periods of his work. The last few weeks will be spent primarily with critical interpretations and debates concerning his account of knowledge.

Course Requirements:

There are two types of written assignments. The first type consists of a 2 page weekly essay on the week's reading assignment. These will require students to try and explain some of the principal points of the readings, or to pick two or three main points of the readings to explain. The focus will be on explication here, not criticism. For most weeks I will give students a question around which to organize their remarks. These essays will be graded and inadequate essays will be returned with an option to rewrite. Students may drop one essay during any week they choose. They must be turned into my philosophy mailbox, in hard copy, no later than 12:00 each Wednesday. I do not accept papers by email.

There is also a 15 page typed paper due at the end of the term on some aspect of Foucault's writings. By the last third of the course students will be expected to have a three to five page draft of this paper; depending on class size, this may be read to the class for discussion and criticism, or just read by the instructor for feedback. No extra reading beyond what is already required in the course will be necessary for these papers. I will distribute a list of sample topics half way through the semester.

Required Texts, ordered at Stony Books:

1. Foucault, The Order of Things

2. Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge

3. Foucault, Discipline and Punish.

4. Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977 Edited by Colin Gordon.

5. Gary Gutting, Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Scientific Reason.

6. Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality Volume 1.

7. Michel Foucault The Birth of the Clinic

8. Foucault, Fearless Speech edited by Joseph Pearson.

9. There will also be xeroxes of papers available in the philosophy department office.

Schedule of Readings

Jan. 22: Introductory meeting, short background on Foucault.

Jan. 29 and Feb. 5:

Topics - Bachelard and Canguilhem, Foucault’s early work on madness and the birth of the clinic, the development of his idea of discourse.

Gutting, chapters 1, 2, 3
Birth of the Clinic preface, chaps. 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, conclusion
Foucault, “Introduction” to The Normal and the Pathological (xerox)

Feb. 12:

Topics - Discourse, Archaeology, "Man", Human Sciences.

Order of Things pp. ix-xxiv, 3-16, 303-387
Ian Hacking "The Archaeology of Foucault" pp. 27-40 (xerox)
Gary Gutting, chapters 4 and 5

Feb. 19:

Topics - Discursive Formations, Objects, Archaeological Limits.

The Archaeology of Knowledge pp. 3-49, 178-211.
Foucault, “History of Systems of Thought” (xerox)
Gutting, chapter 6

Feb. 26:

Topic - Genealogy, Parrhesia, and the pragmatic context of knowledge claims.

Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy and History" (xerox)
Foucault "The Discourse on Language"
Foucault Fearless Speech 9-33, 71-74, 107-173

March 4, 5:
[special make-up class on March 4, 5:00-8:00, place tba; no class on March 12]

Topics - Power, Power/Knowledge, Discipline.

Discipline and Punish pp. 3-31, 135-228
"Body/Power", "Two Lectures", "Truth and Power" in Power/Knowledge

March 26:

Topics - Truth, Desire, Power, Bio-power.

History of Sexuality: Volume One
. pp. 3-49
Use of Pleasure pp. 3-32 (xerox)

April 2:

Topics - Truth without Sovereignty.

Joseph Rouse “Power/Knowledge” (xerox)
Lectures one, two, three, eleven Society Must be Defended (xerox)

April 9:

Topics - Foucault, knowledge, truth

James Wong “The Project of Critical Ontology” (xerox)
Roberto Machado “Archaeology and Epistemology” (xerox)
Mary Rawlinson “Foucault’s Strategy: Knowledge, Power, and the Specificity of Truth” (xerox)
Barry Smart, "The Politics of Truth and the Problem of Hegemony" (xerox)

April 23:

Topics - Foucault, reason, philosophy

François Wahl “Inside or outside philosophy?” (xerox)
Gutting, “Reason and Philosophy” chapter 7
Habermas, "The Critique of Reason as an Unmasking of the Human Sciences: Michel Foucault" (xerox)
David Ingram, “Habermas and Foucault on Reason” (xerox)

April 30, May 7:

Student Papers