The Chomsky-Foucault Debate On Human Nature, New York: The New Press, , pp. Content of the transcript differs from the actual. As a glance at the transcript of the discussion between Chomsky and Foucault reveals, the debate was a fascinating insight into many features of their work, and . 3 quotes from The Chomsky – Foucault Debate: On Human Nature: ‘The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institut.

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Chomsky–Foucault debate – Wikipedia

No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form, without written permission from the publisher. Requests for permission to reproduce selections from this book should be mailed to: The New Press operates in the public interest rather than for private gain, and is committed to publishing, in innovative ways, works of educational, cultural, and community value that are often deemed insufficiently profitable. Politics 68 Debaet Chomsky 3.

A Philosophy of Language Noam Chomsky 4. Truth and Power Michel Foucault 5. Onto the intellectual divisions in the Elders debates, another dimension was thus superimposed. How should intellectuals affected by these events in different places talk with one another?

What, in other words, is the relation between linguistics and politics or the role of power in the analysis of discourse? In some sense, that was a crux of the debate, with each man trying to translate the basic question in his own terms. After some polite attempts to find common ground, a divergence broke out on this score, which, as usual in such exchanges, was ultimately left unresolved.

Their later reflections serve to amplify the positions in the initial exchange as well as the divergences and links between them. They deepen the earlier exchange, complicating its terms and reception. The interviews with Chomsky on politics and language Chkmsky 2 and 3 prolong the peculiar mix of English and French in the debate. Ronat, a noted French linguist, asked questions in French; Chomsky responded in Tramscript, and the tape-recorded results were then translated into French.

I do not see in what way the study of ghetto dialects differs from the study of the dialects of university-trained speakers, from a purely linguistic point of view.

Human Nature: Justice versus Power

What are the presuppositions and the politics of such non-normal creativity in our forms of discourse? How did this disagreement figure into the problem of the relation of language-study to politics in the two thinkers? Foucault followed a rather different path in the s. Robert Oppenheimer, foucaupt as he was with the consequences of the knowledge he helped to develop. There is a whole aspect of civil disobedience, discussed in the debate with Chomsky, not only with Martin Luther King Jr. It was a problem that deeply interested Foucault, who hoped to work on it in collaboration with Robert Badinter, a participant in GIP and later Transrcipt of Justice in France.

Chomsky later reported that the two had lively discussions off air as well. The New Press,p. See Chapter 3, p. The New Press,pp. Gilles Deleuze et al. These remarks are elaborated in A Thousand Plateaus Minneapolis: See Chapter 2, p.

See Chapter 1, p.

Editions Gallimard,III, foucualt. Columbia University Press,pp. As Minister of Justice, Badinter would take the initiative abolishing the death penalty against majority French opiniona position Foucault defended against the views chomxky psychoanalysts like Jean La- planche, concerned with the Father and the Symbolic Order. Michel Foucault, of the College de France, and Mr. Both philosophers have points in common and points of difference. I intend, therefore, not to teanscript any time and to start off with a central, perennial question: POWER All studies of man, from history to linguistics and psychol- ogy, are faced with the question of whether, in the last instance, we are the product of all kinds of external factors, or if, in spite of our differences, we have something we could call a common human nature, by which we can recognize each other as human beings.

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So my first question is to you, Mr. Well, let me begin in a slightly technical way. A person who is interested in studying languages is faced with a very definite empirical problem. Now, the person who has acquired this intricate and highly articulated and organized collection of abilities—the collection of abilities that we call knowing a language—has been exposed to a certain experience; he has been presented in the course of HUMAN NATURE!

Chomskj 3 his lifetime with a certain amount of data, of direct experience with a language. Furthermore we notice that varying individuals chomdky very varied experience in a particular language nevertheless arrive at systems which are very much congruent to one another.

The systems that transcdipt speakers of English arrive at on the basis of their very different experiences are congruent in the sense that, over an overwhelming range, what one of them says, the other can understand. POWER edge because he approached the learning experience with a very explicit and detailed schematism that tells him what kind of language it is that he is being exposed to. That is, to put it rather loosely: And it is because transcritp begins with that highly organized transrcipt very restrictive schematism, that he is able to make debaet huge leap from scattered and degenerate data to highly organized knowledge.

I would claim then that this instinctive knowledge, if you like, this schematism that makes it possible to derive complex and intricate knowledge on the basis of very partial data, is one fundamental constituent of human nature. Foucaylt this case I think a fundamental constituent because of the role that language plays, not merely in communication, but also in expression of thought and interaction between persons; and I assume that in other domains of human intelligence, in other domains of human cognition and behavior, something of the same sort must ttanscript true.

What do you say to this? It is true that I mistrust the notion of human nature a little, and for the following reason: POWER totality of its future tasks.

The notion of life played this role to some extent in biology during a certain period. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the notion of life was hardly used in studying nature: At the end of the eighteenth century, the description and analysis of these natural beings showed, through the use of more highly perfected franscript and the latest techniques, an entire domain of objects, an entire field of relations and processes which have enabled us to define the specificity of bi- ology in the knowledge of nature.

Can one say that research into life has finally constituted itself in biological science?

It seems to me more likely that the transformations of biological knowledge at the end of the eighteenth century were demonstrated on one hand by a whole series of new concepts for use in scientific discourse and on the other hand gave rise to a notion like that of life which has enabled us to designate, to delimit, and to situate a certain type of scientific discourse, among other things. Well, it seems to me that the notion of human nature is of the same type.

POWER 7 guists discovered the laws of consonant mutation, or Freud the principles of the analysis of dreams, or cultural anthropologists the structure of myths. I would find it difficult to see in this a scientific concept.

That is, there is something biologically given, unchangeable, a foundation for whatever it is that we do with our mental capacities in this case.

Can we explain in biological terms, ultimately in physical terms, these properties of both acquiring knowledge in the first place and making use of it in the second?

In a sense fojcault might say that this is a variant of the body- mind problem. To the common sense of a later generation, action at a distance has been incorporated within science. What happened was that the notion of body, the notion of the physical had changed. POWER 9 explanation for the behavior of the heavenly bodies. I see no particular reason to believe that franscript or physics now contain those concepts, and it may be that to scale the next peak, to make the next step, they will have to focus on this flucault concept, and may very well have to broaden their scope in order to come to grips with it.


I have the impression that one of the main differences between you both has its origin in a difference in approach. We can try to elucidate this in a more general way: Foucault, are delimiting eighteenth-century rationalism, whereas you, Mr. Chomsky, are combining eighteenth-century rationalism with notions like freedom and creativity.

Perhaps we could illustrate this in a more general way with examples from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. And I think that, without objecting to the other approach, my transccript is legitimate; chomsku is, I think it is perfectly possible to go back to earlier stages of scientific choms,y on the basis of our present understanding, and to perceive how great thinkers were, within the limitations of their time, groping toward HUMAN NATURE!

POWER 11 concepts and ideas and insights that they themselves could not be clearly aware of. For example, I think fouczult anyone can do this about his own thought.

Without dbeate to compare oneself to the great thinkers of the past, anyone can consider what he now knows and can ask what he knew twenty years ago, and can see that in some unclear fashion he was striving towards something which he can only now understand.

He thought that in those terms, in terms of the mechanical principle, he could explain a certain domain of phenomena; and then he observed that there was a range of phenomena that he argued could not be explained in those terms. And he therefore postulated a creative principle to account for that domain of phenomena, the principle of mind with its own properties.

POWER Cartesians, for example many who regarded themselves as strongly anti-rationalistic, developed the concept of creation within a system of rule. He was moving into the domain of something that went beyond well-established science, and was trying to integrate it with well-established science by developing a theory in which these notions could be properly clarified and explained.

Now Descartes, I think, made a similar intellectual move in postulating a second substance. I cannot object to the account which you have given in your historical analysis of their reasons and of their modality. But there is one thing one could nevertheless add: According to Descartes, the mind was not so very creative. It saw, transcrript perceived, it was illuminated by the evidence. POWER nor entirely mastered was that of understanding how one could pass from one of these clear and distinct ideas, one of these intuitions, to another, and what status should be given to the evidence of the passage between them.

On the contrary, you can find, I think, at the same time in Pascal and Leibniz, something which is much closer to what you are looking for: And that is why the grammar of Port-Royal, to which you refer, is, I think, much more Augustinian than Cartesian. And furthermore you will find in Leibniz something which you will certainly like: Chomsky, one moment please. But I remember some passages degate your History of Madness, which give a description of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in terms of repression, suppression, and exclusion, while for Mr.

Why do we have at that period, fokcault the first time, closed psychiatric or insane asylums? Chomsky would like to speak about it. No, no, no, please go on. No, I would like to say this: But I believe that my problem is different to that of Mr. In the field of the history of science or, more generally, the history of thought, the problem was completely different.