Monday, October 27, 2014

The Philosophical Life (Epilogue To The Technology Of Good)

Epilogue To The Technology Of Good

- Do you really live with crazy people?
- Yes.
- You take care of them?
- No. They take care of me.
- What do you mean?
- Financially, since I don't pay.
- You know Foucault's idea* that we didn't know what a crazy person was until we started locking them up in hospitals and trying to cure them? That we didn't have a sense of justice until we start locking up criminals?
- What did we have?
- You know this very well, stop pretending. We had immorality, we had the weakness of giving in to our inclinations.
- And what changed?
- We began to make claims to knowledge. We became specialists in criminality, experts in insanity.
- And according to Foucault any claim to knowledge becomes a source of class war.
- Yes. Tell me why, if you can.
- Knowledge becomes class war because of two factors: leadership, and property. Those who know, it seems reasonable, should lead, and those who are led become a kind of property of the leaders.** But it doesn't have to be this way.
- Knowledge without leadership and property?
- Exactly. You know, I actually met Foucault. I was working on this idea when I was 19 and sent my college thesis to him. He invited me to visit him in Paris.
- What did he like about your idea?
- That I had worked out his idea. You've seen Foucault's debate with Chomsky?*** Foucault says even the oppressed fights the oppressor for power, not justice, because justice is just an artifact of class relations, of knowledge turned to power. Chomsky argues there is justice, approximate but real, based on knowledge. Foucault denies there is justice independent of class and power.
- And how did you work this out?
- By accepting both sides of the argument. I imagined, in the tradition of Plato's Republic, the construction of a state, beginning with the assumption no one knew the nature of humanity and therefore there could be no central authority. Groups were voluntary and diverse, could decide for themselves the rules about what harmed human nature and what didn't. Right to property in some views would be tromped by right to life, in other views it wouldn't.
- No leaders exerting force. No assumptions about property. Voluntary associations, and voluntary association between associations, I suppose. 19th century anarchist theory, with some philosophic analysis thrown in. I can see why Foucault liked it. The question of what we know of human nature is avoided, agreed upon knowledge is not there to become the basis of power, yet the analysis of force and property**** allows justice in by the back door, as it were, in the collective agreement to work out how to manage disagreement.***** So you've had philosophic correspondence****** with both Foucault and Chomsky. And you live with, are taken care of by crazy people. You have to be the best argument against taking philosophy seriously I ever heard of.

Further Reading:
The Debate
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Morals And Happiness

Foucault Interview
** Principle Of Sharing + Exception Of Private Property + The State = Class War
*** The Chomsky Foucault Debate
**** Freedom & Property
***** Declaration / Woman Of My Dreams,
The Art Of The Possible
****** Noam Chomsky & Mental Things