Home > filosoofia, Michel Foucault > Michel Foucault “The Analytic of Finitude”

Michel Foucault “The Analytic of Finitude”

Foucault, Michel 2008. The Order of Things. An Archaeology of Human Sciences. London; New York: Routledge.

The Analytic of Finitude

In one sense, man is governed by labour, life, and language: his concrete existence finds its determinations in them; it is possible to have access to him only through his words, his organism, the objects he makes – as though it is they who possess the truth in the first place (and they alone perhaps); and he, as soon as he thinks, merely unveils himself to his own eyes in the form of a being who is already, in a necessarily subjacent density, in an irreducible anteriority, a living being, an instrument of production, a vehicle for words which exist before him. All these contents that his knowledge reveals to him as exterior to himself, and older than his own birth, anticipate him, overhang him with all their solidity, and traverse him as though he were merely an object of nature, a face doomed to be erased in the course of history. Man’s finitude is heralded – and imperiously so – in the positivity of knowledge; we know that man is finite, as we know the anatomy of the brain, the mechanics of production costs, or the system of IndoEuropean conjugation; or rather, like a watermark running through all these solid, positive, and full forms, we perceive the finitude and limits they impose, we sense, as though on their blank reverse sides, all that they make impossible. (341-342)

Heralded in positivity, man’s finitude is outlined in the paradoxical form of the endless; rather than the rigour of limitation, it indicates the monotony of a journey which, though it probably has no end, is nevertheless not without hope. (342)

At the foundation of all the empirical positivities, and of everything that can indicate itself as a concrete limitation of man’s existence, we discover a finitude – which is in a sense the same: it is marked by the spatiality of the body, the yawning of desire, and the time of language; and yet it is radically other: in this sense, the limitation is expressed not as a determination imposed upon man from outside (because he has a nature or a history), but as a fundamental finitude which rests on nothing but its own existence as fact, and opens upon the positivity of all concrete limitation. (343)

[…] the death that anonymously gnaws at the daily existence of the living being is the same as that fundamental death on the basis of which my empirical life is given to me; the desire that links and separates men in the neutrality of the economic process is the same as that on the basis of which everything is desirable for me; the time that bears languages along upon it, that takes up its place within them and finally wears them out, is the same time that draws my discourse out, even before I have pronounced it, into a succession that no man can master. (344)

Hence the interminable to and fro of a double system of reference: if man’s knowledge is finite, it is because he is trapped, without possibility of liberation, within the positive contents of language, labour, and life; and inversely, if life, labour, and language may be posited in their positivity, it is because knowledge has finite forms. (345)

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: