The intermingling influence of both American pragmatism and French philosophy on my intellectual interests and cognitive style remains strong. In this short paper, Rabinow does a great job of explicating convergent perspectives among two exemplars of those traditions. Deliberative analysis is, at its core, connected to the process of posing and answering questions in relation to ‘problems’, or taskscapes – or, in the broadest sense, coping-with the situations and dynamics we find ourselves entangled with/in.
Taking up the attitude that conception is can only be evaluated in direct relation to its effects and efficacy for solving problems and navigating bio-socially rich worldspaces can (among other things) assist us in a) avoiding the logical dead-ends and contradictions of dogmatic thinking, b) open us to more humility and compassion in our discursive exchanges, and c) deploying thought in a more flexible, oscillating analytic and synthetic manner when engaging any given field of possible action. Which is to say, conceptualization, problematization, and socially inflected action are intrinsically related – and adopting and cultivating intellectual attitudes that make this explicit and strategic can allow for more collaboration, cross-fertilization, innovation, and conciliation in our endeavors for more adaptive coping, relating, evaluation, and implementing.
“By ‘thinking’, I mean an analysis of what one might call the intensifying venues of experience (des foyers d’expérience), where are articulated one with the others: first, forms of a possible knowledge; second, the normative matrices of comportment for individuals; and finally, third, modes of virtual existence for possible subjects.” — Michel Foucault
Dewey and Foucault: What’s the Problem?
by Paul Rabinow
This article explicates a valuable but undernoticed point of contact between John Dewey and Michel Foucault. Both agreed that thinking arose in the context of problems such that the work of thought for both proceeds by way of working through and working over problems. Both affirmed that thinking arose in problematic situations; that it was about clarifying those situations, and that ultimately it was directed towards achieving a degree of resolution of what was problematic in the situation. Both agreed that thinking—or inquiry—was not fundamentally about the representations of a situation; either those produced by a contemporary thinker or as an exercise directed at historical materials. Both agreed that a history of ideas as autonomous entities, distorted not only the process of thinking as a practice, but also the reasons for which it had been engaged in, often with a certain seriousness and urgency, the first place: that is to say, such approaches covered over the stakes. Both agreed that the stakes involved something experiential and entailed a form of logic (or in Foucault’s later vocabulary a mode of ‘veridiction’), in which the thinker could not help but be involved… Both John Dewey and Michel Foucault were committed to avoiding polemic exchanges as a matter of ethical self-formation, as well as the best path to consistent scientific (Wissenschaftliche) rigor.
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