Phi Beta Cons

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More on Foucault


I have been appraised of a number of criticisms of Foucault in recent days, such as that of the keen folks at Bouphonia. They observe aptly that I commented about Foucault as an utter amateur. Vicarious scholarship? Sure, I’m game to such a charge. I openly declared so – I’m a soi-disant non-reader of Foucault. I didn’t doubt that criticisms of Foucault in French (imagine that!) had been advanced – my larger point was that such weighty charges as Scull advances clearly had not penetrated very deeply into the outer groves of undergraduate academe, where Foucault was, in my experience, very much a go-to name, who didn’t receive anywhere near the cautions provided in advance when dealing with other, somewhat circumspect works of history. He cites Frazer – Frazer was invariably offered, or referenced, in my experience, with attendant cautions about his accuracy – with Foucault I never heard encouragements to even a grain of salt. 

Beyond this, I wouldn’t have ventured to comment on my genuinely tangential and anecdotal encounters with Foucault if I hadn’t seen my amateur’s reaction echoed in better-read quarters, by goings-on at The Valve and a welter of other reviews, that I relayed directly before the post he chose to assail. The world-weary Bouphonia might have been encyclopedically acquainted with Foucault’s faults already, but many others clearly have not, judging by considerable recent comment. Pointing out this phenomenon though? That’s “polemical.”


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