An Analysis of Foucault’s Order of Things

Foucault is a postmodern, post structural philosopher, credited with investigating the archaeology of knowledge and bifurcating knowledge into various epistemes (knowledge Systems).
The ‘Order of Things’ traces the development of Epistemes as predominant discourses starting from the 16th Century and going on up to the 20th century. Foucault develops an archaeology of knowledge.
What was Episteme like in the 16th century? It was a conflation of rational and magical sources. Knowledge was based on similitude and resemblance. The sciences attributed properties to things based on their resemblance. Language developed its syntactical qualities by absorbing verbs, and classifying nouns. The world view of the 16th century was not rational but based on the esoteric and the occult. The 16th century is known for its schism of being narcissistic with the symptom of eclectic catharsis of knowledge.
Towards the 17th and the 18th centuries we find the development of scientific thought, rationalism and empiricism. An example is the Helio-centric view developed by Copernicus that the sun revolved around the earth and that the Sun is the centre of the Solar system. Mathematics progressed with development of Algebra and Geometry. The worldview of the 18th century was marked by the development of a scientific outlook. Descartes brought out his famous dictum: Cogito Ergo Sum, I think I therefore I exist. There was a detour from transcendentalism to rationalism and empiricism.
Similarly too in language we find a heap of changes. From the study of grammar, there developed the Philosophy of language that is Philology. The etymological processing of words became a predominant cult. We find Nietzsche reading Greek and interpreting art as the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian elements. By the 20th century, we find the predominance of structuralist thought which traces the roots of language to the making of Signs—the Signifier and the Signified. The signifier belonged to the sensate realm and the signified belong to the intelligible realm. For example if I say Rose is Passion, rose is the signifier and passion the signified. Post-Structralists developed the Binary divide of language that is a Sign privileges some terms and marginalize others. For example: Whites are a privileged term where as black and colored people are marginalized.
We also find the development of the trajectory of epsitemes in Philosophy. Philosophy grew out of metaphysical thought which was based on God and Religion. Towards the 18th and the 19th century we find the development of naturalism and evolutionary thought. This promoted a scientific world view. Man became a product of mechanistic materialism. Again in the 20th century we find philosophical paradigms shifting to Ontology and Phenomenology. Thus Heidegger invented the question of being of meaning. Sartre developed existentialism with the consciousness of being existing in three states: Being-in-itself, Being-for-itself and Being for others. Sartre also developed affirmation and negation as characteristic traits of the Ego. We also find in that in the modern age there was a paradigm shift to Postmodernism. The Sign was ontologically deconstructed. The Binary divide of language became a philosophical discourse. Foucault was able to bring out power as the ideology of dominant discourse. Lacan in psychoanalysis challenged with stability of the self and introduced the concept of dreams being a language. Lacan is also famous for bringing into fruition the Mirror Stage and the Gaze. We also find the archeology of feminist, gay and lesbian discourses. Althusser reread Marxism and developed the concept of ideological apparatuses.

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