Elicit: Hopefully Non-Abstract Abstract about Extraction

Accidentally stumbling across my old blog, I ‘m surprised to be receiving any traffic.  The past week has found me struggling to re-envision what the purpose of blogging is for me.  Already the limits of hope are straining.

My muse is convinced that not only is the prior material worth re-visiting, but that it still may have an impact on webpage turners amidst their other dog-eared pursuits.  That is a needed dose of perspective, but not remotely why I began blogging.  I wanted to capture memories; I was never remotely consistent at journaling and could n’t < find a voice > in it.  Not places, not people, but particular states of being or of mind (if the difference is considerable) were needing to be captured before they flitted off into the abyss of the un-remembered.  It all began, of course, with having experiences I could fear forgetting (ah yes, fear, friend of the writer).

Subsequently, fear stretched its haggard fingers in the direction of my un-reading.  Before my time abroad I was resigned to mediocrity as a reader, ever mocked not by the emptiness of my book-shelves but by the hollow-ness of my engagement with greater minds.  These memories too were not yet worth recording.  I was met by a new dawn on soil not native to me though truly home.

So I took down a few petty notes (what else am I to consider my earlier writings?) but I would have no hope of occupying this space without having been there.  I ‘m not sure what it means for thoughts to progress through space (I like to leave things complicated), they surely can’t do so unchanged.  Still, there was no voice I would wish to listen to in my writing.  I could n’t resign myself to a blog for the purpose of mere practice, nor for solving all the world’s theological or philosophical ills (for I had largely retired from controversies where neither side is worth agreeing with) — so instead I hoped to court a few of my friends and merely dipped my toes in the water — rarely dipping in.

I wanted a conversation, or twelve, but did n’t know where to begin.

the tranquility of a world largely devoid of sound, and news

the tranquility of a world largely devoid of sound, and news

Two of my favourite conversation partners, meaning in which I serve as hopeful sponge, liken the study of philosophy to swimming in the open ocean waters.  The ocean, amongst the ancients and often in our dreams, corresponds with chaos.  Being driven by the wave and smartly following its current may not look so dissimilar.  I wanted to be driven little and to be loosed to drive my own team of water-stallions.  I felt at once too proud and too un-equal to the task.  Saying is impermanent and I am yet wary of having my position located without my knowledge.

I affirm her affirmation.  The subtle influence may prove the strongest in the end, especially if such influence is toward subtle ends.  I would not pursue that which was not already complex, herself being no exception.  But still, feed-back is what I would — not from all, but from one timely given.  That may intimidate you, but why should it?  I tremble all the more.

Not having found a true voice, but I shall try a thousand nearly true until I will be at last spoken to — and, then…

Then all shall most properly be well.  Until then let us strive — I shall have it no other way.

Numb in the Middle

Whither bloweth the wind?

The past few hour-blocks were spent in defining the middle.  What is ‘just above enough’ going to be for my students?  Thankfully we have numbers to wave aside all questionings.  Most people find themselves benumbed and awestruck by them; they certainly do n’t know how to controvert them.

But how much effort should be spent in defining mediocrity?  Not fluency, not mastery but good honest paper, a few scratch-marks to maintain balance-of-power, and the greatest of care in avoiding anything resembling an apology — this is the balance which ought to be struck.  That is, this is how to avoid the unwanted extremes.

The concept of living in the ‘middle kingdom’ is fit for the highest poets — by which I mean those who can recall the everyday to us.  Has our peace-keeping become conflict-avoidance?  Are we caught between the greatest powers? hobbits in a world of men?  Have we become so media-driven that we serve merely as faceless conduits for the reflections of our great stage-plays?  How can there be so much news with nothing to be said betwixt anyone? –such blathering as if the information could n’t dash away quickly enough to slough off into the sea of our un-knowing.

Are our middles become truly hollow so that we are not even in hope of arrival? is our train speeding along its loop only so as to get to the next station.  Is there no more becoming?

–Ah, numbers!  Numbers have us firmly by the collar, drug (not from here-to-there) but always hitherward.  The last few weeks mine and I have spent too much of our time trying to stay awake just long enough to reach the next station, not a wink of time truly our own.  Ever more out-going than in-coming, numbers will drive us — but they were made to be driven!  They are only meant to describe legitimate interactions — inventions of language meant to simplify.  Instead we allow them to grind us to powder.

for my friend in Abu-Dhabi

of ‘Abu-Dhabi’ by Dave Yoder, National Geographic

And currency is worse — for the current is ever cresting waves beyond the reach from whence we might, we might, be swept along willingly.  Time escapes us all, and would we chase after with no destining thought.  Worse than the question what is behind our currency — what is in our time that it should run away from us so quickly as though we were unwelcome strangers?

Not Till We Are Lost

Not till we are lost, in other words, till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.

~~H.D. Thoreau, Walden ‘the Village’, p. 115 (Norton ed.)

All ways it surprises me how one reading leads to another.  I am reduced, though it is my gain, to admit that in being lost one becomes more intimately aware of relations, if not relatedness itself (how such should ascend the stage would be quite the imponderable — how to raise the curtain which by nature connects all to itself?).

The best Wiki could offer

Is n’t being lost amidst a sea of pages similar to being lost amidst the calm of wintering trees?

But I am reduced in conveying the value of ‘lostness’.  How can an example be helpful if the experience itself is paramount?  Let it be understood I mean less to point at than to indicate; it is merely ironic that I should at last find an acquaintance with S. Cavell only after being dis-covered 9for all reading is being read — an idea I believe I am borrowing from Cavell here9 to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations.

In reading one can hardly help multiplying ‘relations’ as I believe Thoreau would have them.


For Thoreau ‘reading’ in such manner is seeing everything in the light of being darkened to the world which sets its watch by the locomotive and is employed not in living but in holding onto what scraps of life are allowed — turning away from that enslaving which is ownership so that the ‘read’er may find life in its sport rather than be made sport of as life runs past:

[L]et not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport.  Enjoy the land, but own it not.

~~ibidem “Baker Farm” p. 139

The path to such reading can only be seen if one has ‘been turned round once in this world’ (p. 115).  To find oneself can only come by means of being lost.  Till then, till one is lost and finds that she is everywhere at home — till then sight must be sought.  And that is reading in its truest form.

My reading of Wittgenstein has led through Cavell and into Walden all too naturally, but it is only because I am growing used to the lost element in reading that I find them such near relations.


I do n’t much like introductions.  They far too often appear to be conclusions (and writing another conclusion which resummarized the introduction was…I can’t even conclude that thought).  I was, and remain, resistant to the practice in my writing (that too sounds conclusive).

In introducing another to a process, or to a game, one does not point to what is ‘important’ or speak of ‘conclusions’.

And now we ‘ve segued to Wittgenstein.  Whew.

If Philosophical Investigations were set in the typical format, some flavor would be lost.  The struggle would n’t hang in the air.  I would be wrestling with Wittgenstein’s conclusions, not along with Wittgenstein.  He despaired of channeling such thoughts in book-form, and as such he is far more helpful.  He does n’t have to tell me what is important, just show how he is struggling (would n’t we be better teachers if we did the same).

I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking.   But, if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.  (preface to Philosophical Investigations)

\\         ||           //]   &

Thus I am able to treat his work as a series of notes, useful or unuseful, but cannot quite answer the question ‘Have you read Wittgenstein?’  Instead I am, in some measure, struggling alongside him toward aims not wholly his own.

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.  (#109 from Bk. 1, ibid, p. 47)

For his thought, it seems that an appeal to the metaphysical is reprehensible insofar as it denies the fact that it is saying ‘I don’t understand’ but pretends still to be an explanation.

What ‘we’ do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.  (#116, p. 48)

And now to the thought which I ‘ve been struck by: what is this ‘everyday’?  ‘Do all ordinary things strike us so?’ (#600, p. 156)  When we try to leave the metaphysical and obstinately confusing which comprises our language game, the first inclining is to turn towards its opposite.  If the philosophers are confused, let us turn to the un-philosophical or at least the non-philosophical.  Where is that?  We want to say in the ordinary.  But we can’t apply Wittgenstein’s test, ‘can you point to it?’, or can’t we?

Can’t we?  What day can we point to and say ‘this is ordinary’.  It can only be accomplished from a distance.  The ordinary retreats from view.

(**      *(        **         *)     )* *

And now that we have been introduced to the enigmatic, which leads who knows where:

My aim is to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.  (#464, p. 133)

Chasing Location and Author-ship in Foucault’s Example

In explaining the work undertaken in The Archaeology of Knowledge (L’Archeologie du Savoir) Foucault relates what he is herein attempting to say with that which was said in his prior works (namely Madness and Civilization, Naissance de la clinique, and The Order of Things).  These are his landmarks for the discourse (largely about discourse/discursive practices) he would seek to free ‘from all anthropologism’ (Archaeology trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith p. 17). 

When I first read this (and the statement which follows), it thoroughly struck me that Foucault was learning the language with which to approach his research project.  But what he published was still, though released/published, a series of thoughts incomplete of themselves.  They were, as our words truly are, as likely to point the reader to the wrong stars as to provide a coherent means of navigating the waters with Foucault’s instruments.  To be honest, I don’t understand what was wrong with these works (I have n’t read them as yet and might not even then be in the proper position to see the weaknesses in his own publishings Foucault saw or was made aware of) and so won’t illustrate the specific items.  It is enough to hear Foucault admit:

It is mortifying that I was unable to avoid these dangers: I console myself with the thought that they were intrinsic to the enterprise itself…


The enterprise itself does not concern us here, but we must again note that it was not something Foucault was immediately able to recognize in his own writings – how to retool his language so that it better served his purposes and was free from the language used by ‘anthropologistic’ historical methods.  The succeeding lines shout loudest where I can but underline:

“[W]ithout the questions that I was asked, without the difficulties that arose, without the objections that were made, I may never have gained so clear a view of the enterprise to which I am now inextricably linked.  Hence the cautious, stumbling manner of this text: at every turn it stands back, measures up what is before it, gropes towards its limits, stumbles against what it does not mean, and digs pits to mark out its own path.”

~ibidem, p. 17 – emphasis mine

I could n’t identify more with such sentiments.  We expect, too often, in reading some work that the author’s ideas are fixed and stable (why else should they put their author-ity at stake) and probably assume that all decisions are consciously made.  Foucault exemplifies how this is not the case for he cautions the reader that he may in fact not be going about this in the best way.  He only knows that this is what can be said at this moment in pursuit of this goal.  At every moment he is questioning (and invites the reader to question) how the current assertion can be supported and what precisely that knowledge is serving.  Hence he says:

I have tried to define this blank space from which I speak, and which is slowly taking shape in a discourse that I still feel to be so precarious and so unsure.


Not only does he know that his research may be misunderstood (and used to serve ends of which he does not approve), he suspects that the approach he takes may counteract his purpose.  He may not only be misunderstood, he very well may misunderstand his own project!  For all energies sacrificed to achieve a location from which to speak, an author such as Foucault may find that such a location is entirely unsuitable.  It is unsurprising then that he is cautious, even halting, in his approach.

But if Foucault is unsure of his location, how is one to counteract his assertions?  He gives voice to his detractors in saying:

‘Aren’t you sure of what you’re saying?  Are you going to change yet again, shift your position according to the questions that are put to you, and say that the objections are not really directed at the place from which you are speaking?  Are you going to declare yet again that you have never been what you have been reproached with being?  Are you already preparing the way out that will enable you in your next book to spring up somewhere else and declare as you’re now doing: no, no, I’m not where you are lying in wait for me, but over here, laughing at you?’


Surely this is not a fair case if the author can perpetually evade her detractors by maintaining ‘I am not really there, but here – although, I can see why you thought so’.  But such maddening displays are true to life.  While we do speak from a location, we may not be the best author-ities to tell another where that location is.  It is, rather, injudicious of us to expect that a writer to accomplish his ends by way of the simplest definitions.  Instead, we find that we are grasping for landmarks by which to locate from whence the author is speaking – even as the author is attempting to do so! 

Misunderstandings then, as I am attempting to use the term for this moment from wherever here may be, might also describe such landmarks.  They are impressions by which we might just succeed in locating ourselves for long enough to utter some meaningful misunderstanding.  If such is the case, we would do best to tread lightly and think from as many locations as possible as we attempt to engage in that discourse we (and the author) are pressing for.


For those who would attempt to follow such guidelines I offer Foucault’s words:

I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face.  Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order.  At least spare us their morality when we write.


Misunderstanding as Distortion {and following note on Paralysis}

The conclusion to Nietzsche’s final work, Ecce Homo: Wie man wird, was man ist (How One Becomes What One Is), famously, if pathetically, cries out:

Hört mich! denn ich bin der und der. Verwechselt mich vor Allem nicht! (Ecce Homo, 1888: Vorwort 1as found in Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg2000.de/nietzsche/eccehomo/eccehomo.htm)

“Hear me!  For I am such and such a person.  Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.”  (from Peter Gay’s introduction to Basic Writings of Nietzsche (2000), Modern Library, USA: p. xiv [as translated by Walter Kaufmann])

I feel I ‘ve long been fascinated with misunderstanding, not only how frequently we misunderstand one another but how we misunderstand ourselves.  I ‘m not meaning to boil matters down to some list of Freudian urges or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  These psycho-archaeological diggings unveil something of the unconscious, the unspoken, and that is valuable to a point.  It reminds us of that we are reading of thoughts and images which grabbed the attention of their transmitters, that at some point they too were arrested by that which is expressed in language in general, and in this case in writings.

But then we neither encounter directly these images nor the voice of the author at those particular moments wherein the release that is authorship took place.  The ‘why’ which arrested that author is never the ‘what’ we encounter in each reading.  Even as the author strives to be understood, even this petty thinker at this very moment, misunderstanding also is at work.  There is much the author does not say, and perhaps much she should have said but failed to.  In other words, discourse goes beyond exhuming the corpse of that author’s state of mind, an ultimately impossible task even when attempted honestly – even though it benefits the reader to be mindful not only of the woven structure of the text, but the humanity of the weaver and the particularity of those moments which led to the finality of authorship.  In writing, the author truly loses control – the medium worked in determines what may be said even as the author tries to connect the reader to that set of ideas.  While the aims of authors vary, inevitably there is some intended encounter – some confrontation that goes beyond the author’s state of mind.

The angst of being misunderstood, being misstated, and even having one’s words distorted is embodied in Nietzsche’s words here.  Foucault avers that this distortion has in fact already occurred in his day such that the decentring operations of both Nietzsche and Marx are twisted completely.  In his analysis of the history of thought, Foucault descries the attempts of the nineteenth century to preserve the ‘sovereignty of consciousness’ and “the twin figures of anthropology and humanism” from the decentrings offered by Nietzsche and Marx.

“One is led therefore to anthropologize Marx, to make of him a historian of totalities, and to rediscover in him the message of humanism; one is led therefore to interpret Nietzsche in the terms of transcendental philosophy, and to reduce his genealogy to the level of a search for origins…”

~Foucault, the Archaeology of Knowledge (1972) Pantheon Books, NY: p. 13 – translated by A.M. Sheridan Smith from the French

He goes on to remark that where Marx was first criticized and Nietzsche opposed, the totalitarianizing historians and structuralists came to ‘travesty’, or I think in this case distort the representation of, Marx’ purposes and ‘transpose’ Nietzsche.  That is, intellectual violence was done to the works of two antagonists such that their works were made to appear, at least in the normative discourse, as though both Marx and Nietzsche were really still working within the same framework of discussions.  It is far easier to distort your opponent’s than it is to understand it, for she is working from another basis than you.  While neither Nietzsche nor Marx worked in a vacuum or were immune from the Geist of their time, their interpretations do not easily serve to perpetuate those discourses whose foundations they tore at the foundations of.  Foucault continues:

“All the treasure of bygone days was crammed into the old citadel of this history; it was thought to be secure; it was sacralized; it was made the last resting-place of anthropological thought; it was even thought that its most inveterate enemies could be captured and turned into vigilant guardians.  But the historians had long ago deserted the old fortress and gone to work elsewhere; it was realized that neither Marx nor Nietzsche were carrying out the guard duties that had been entrusted to them.”

~Foucault, Archaeology (1972): p. 14

Here a layer is added to our considerations.  In discourse, when an author or thinker’s works have been distorted so that they speak with but a sad and hoarse caricature of their former voice – the voice is voided of its true patheticisms and forces so that it becomes tamed as the imprisoned lion – when such has occurred, that discourse which has distorted these voices and stripped them of all rigor or lasting ability to object, then those who might better understand the nature of either Nietzsche’s or Marx’ personal discourse, those hills which they chose to be bruised on in their climbs and travails – those voices which might again break into that closed discourse are signaled by their strangeness.  Worse, they are taken as beginning from a basis of misunderstanding where instead they are confronting the worse misunderstanding – that which has taken the methods of Marx and Nietzsche but left all they sought fit to say by means of their methods!  Ironically, Nietzsche spoke of this very matter in his Mixed Opinions and Maxims (1879) where he avers:

“The philosopher supposes that the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the structure; but posterity finds its value in the stone which he used for building, and which is used many more times after that for building—better.  Thus it finds the value in the fact that the structure can be destroyed and nevertheless retains value as building material.”

~Nietzsche, Mixed Opinions and Maxims from Basic Writings of Nietzsche, p. 156 – emphasis in the text

I shall put off to another hour what Nietzsche has to say about being both understandable, and therefore not easily understandable to the wrong sort of reader.  Rather, I prefer to consider what personal horror Nietzsche or Marx might feel to find that their works and thoughts and broodings which bore upon their selves with their full weight were then, rather than simply dismissed which is harmless, twisted to serve purposes largely opposite their own.  I feel there are few greater horrors for the scholar.  One may forgive some misunderstanding, or petty dispute, if it does not go too far or distract too far from the goals for which one writes.  But to be made to serve that which you are most opposed to – to not only be dismissed by the Spirit of your age, the Geist, but to first see it take up your own weapons against you and finally to see your shadow, that you which exists only through readings, and therefore misreadings as well, take up those very weapons in service of that which you with so much effort and will opposed.

Already I have tried to accomplish too much in this post.  Partly that is because I expect this aspect to be least understood, although it is most central to my periphery at the moment.  True, no one ever seeks to be misunderstood, unless it is so that another purpose may be effected by means of that misunderstanding and in that case one is at least being followed truly, even if those who follow are not aware that they are truly understanding.  I feel the urge to elaborate ad nauseum concerning this point although I know it to be perhaps the less interesting aspect for many.  Instead of seeking to paralyze, I see considering such aspects of history as descriptive of that which is most likely to happen.

That is, if one is truly committed to not only changing something small for a few, but wishes to effect change on a mass scale, one must be a student of history in this matter.  Whatever you think of Foucault or Nietzsche or Marx, it should be evident to their readers that their actual voices must be heard through listening and listening well.  I do not speak of uncritically accepting what they say, for that is a disgrace to both the thinker and the one who wishes to understand their thoughts.  If you do not see strengths and weaknesses you are not in their discourse – you have not begun to enter a meaningful discussion.  Returning, however, to our point: to meet Marx or Nietzsche or Foucault in a classroom through a few powerpoint slides and a rough discussion is not even an introduction.  How could anyone understand your thoughts in such environs?  Even in writing this I realize that I may serve a similar function.

To clarify, I have given examples which enliven my own discourse, rather than sought to explain in depth more than a spare thought from these.  To understand their values in depth, and that is the understanding I truly seek when I read – to understand the core even as it changes and attempts to express itself and to encounter others on the same planes of discovery (or uncovering) is the best picture I have as yet of such aims.  Even in this, misunderstanding is inevitable.  I shall not here trot out my examples of disciples as distorters (Socrates->Plato->Aristotle does the trick for my mind at the moment) but rather would speak to the psychological results briefly, again to swat away a distraction.

In no way do I wish to paralyze.  I consider such examples because it seems to me that to ignore such items when they are dis-covered to me is to choose naivete.  It would seem that the other choice is to cower in a corner afraid of the counter-effects of whatever actions I should choose as one who is afraid to pull at the oars because they shall only excite the waves around the vessel.  In-action is not the aim, but neither is naive action.  Surely there are actions worth taking – actions of some significance, and the results are to some extent indeterminate at this point.  But still, some eye to the general predictable elements is prudent in my estimation.  Even as I am learning a new language, I am continually finding false connections and laying these aside as corrected.  Such seems most in line with how our actions and their significance are revealed to us.  I would that more would consider the subject of misunderstanding well, and the nature of distortion in discourse, and welcome others to interact with me particularly as I explore this plane, but not so that one fails to speak in favor of purposes worth being misunderstood for.

A Study in Discontinuity

While recalling little of my last match with Foucault, I barely remember tapping on the mat from that stunted encounter with the Archaeology of Knowledge, still the outline of that which has bested me calls for action.  At last I am equipped to make a beginning where before I had sadly wandered into the wrong arena.  (On a side note, anyone looking to hire someone to narrate significant moments in their life should probably look me up; after all, I don’t believe I minced that metaphor too poorly).  So, for those requiring translation, again I am summoning my meager intellectual prowess in hopes of successfully coming to the other side of Archaeology with some sense of what I ‘ve just ingested.

On the misunderstanding end of things, I am rather inclined to put forward that I ‘m happy to come up a little short here.  Not finishing won’t do for me this time, but we should not judge the quality of our reading by the page count nor by how much of the Stanford Encyclopedia’s synopsis we can critique.  Somewhere in the middle, in the tensions of becoming, a work like this may hint at some significance worth an improved understanding.  Foucault’s words may have painted a picture my poor mind cannot yet grasp, but the way to understanding, I still believe, is through misunderstanding worthy subjects.  Foucault is at least worth disagreeing with, but to agree or disagree first requires a preliminary (mis)understanding.

So now to that which has I find both inspiring and confounding.  At the opening Foucault descries how the values behind the interpretive frameworks of traditional history and the traditional history of ideas (i.e. histories of science, philosophy, thought, and of literature) are encountering the ‘phenomena of rupture’ – that of discontinuity (Archaeology, 1972: p. 4 [trans. by A.M. Sheridan Smith]).  Whereas historians have established the “great continuities of thought…the solid, homogeneous manifestations of a single mind or of a collective mentality” as their science has been “striving to exist and to reach completion at the very outset”, those tracing the history of ideas have been turning toward the ‘displacements and transformations of concepts’ (ibidem, p. 4).  In other words, many in the latter school were considering less the continual progression of titanic, homogeneous thoughts and significances which engulf all else than considering a ‘displacement’, something that goes against the grain, by way of various sub-disciplines of spheres in which that blip in the data showed its influence (or influenza, if you will allow the Lewisan pun).

This translates to looking not so much at the Past but at “several pasts, several forms of connexion, several hierarchies of importance, several networks of determination, several teleologies, for one and the same science, as its present undergoes change: thus historical descriptions are necessarily ordered by the present state of knowledge. (ibidem, p. 5)”  I must now make mention of where I believe Foucault’s finger pointed.  History itself is a construction, one which is at this moment the living product of present communities and receives its values from those social constructs.  History is therefore both product and producer; in other words it is not so much History as a history.  Consequently, the current historical projects are affected even as they define the effects of prior and current events.  Foucault remarks that even as the ‘histories of’ are finding further discontinuities, history itself is rejecting them in favor of stable structures (Archaeology, 1972: p. 6)

Where prior histories sought to have a document speak and reinforce the built up historical structures, a member of the ‘new school’ works on it “from within and to develop it:…divides it up, distributes it, orders it, arranges it in levels, establishes series, distinguishes between what is relevant and what is not…defines unities, describes relations (ibidem, p. 6).”  This is aptly descriptive of what I feel modern doctorates are meant to put themselves through.  Justifying your research methodology becomes a significant part of your research in many fields.

I should note in what little experience I can relate.  I ‘ve been considering my own future thesis now with the added difficulty of not only hearing what the author said and finding the internal coherence I can string together into something snappy, but also with the necessary considerations for where the voice comes from, how it relates to and grates against other local voices and wherein should I find significance: for the author’s community, for that time period, or for something closer to mine own.

This chopping, sorting, and rearranging is exhausting, but I believe the product is worth it.  See, one may misunderstand the formation of History versus histories.  Speaking of histories opens up the possibility of viewing the infinitude of events.  True, some events and thoughts stand out (they tend to stand out by contrast which is partly understood in the prior historical project) but we do the text or the event injustice to understand them in our context primarily.  We may not be able to encounter events so closely, but the truth seems to me to be that the better I understand something the better I understand the distance between myself and it.  Even as I see myself in the light of a tiny trickle of a long flowing stream, continually branching out and converging, in that moment I see distance as well.  Of course not all can be subjected to the microscopic perspective, but while the macroscopic should not be uncritically discarded it should be understood how its seeing is terribly near-sighted.  In this sense such movements in research are disconcerting and refreshing at once.  Regardless, this seems to be the distinction between the possibility of a ‘total history’ and the emergence of a general history (ibid, p. 9).

In reference to this conflict between structure and historical development, Foucault remarks: “it is a long time now since historians uncovered, described, and analysed structures, without ever having occasion to wonder whether they were not allowing the living, fragile, pulsating ‘history’ to slip through their fingers (Archaeology, 1972: p. 11).”  The introduction of the death of history is that which makes it most true to life.

Without discontinuity, Foucault avers, we would find the throne for the ‘sovereignty of consciousness’ immovable.  Time would then, at some point, predictably flow back into continuity.  The wave which rises and crashes must lead to another elsewhere.  Perhaps that was poorly chosen, for I do not mean to suggest preemptively a blow struck against causation, but certainly there is one being struck against predictability.  If Ration rules, then one has only to find the cause prior and one may predict what will follow.  It reminds me somewhat of Chesterton’s talk of determinists, but I surely digress.  In such a system, human consciousness seeks power by way of understanding the inevitable flow of history.  As I tend to appreciate those who poke holes in arguments for causation (or really, understanding causation simply by any means), I ‘m left considering how knowledge and power are interrelated.  More particularly, I wonder how history itself is not only the product of the powerful, but also the means of effecting its intentions.

How might history be the language of power?

And, to introduce a criticism I may regret: how can discontinuity be spoken of except continuously?  I understand that Foucault is more describing the shifts in historical pursuits than arguing directly for a particular, and further I understand (or perhaps thoroughly misunderstand) that speaking of discontinuity requires one to consider the effects of discontinuity on various threads.  In so doing, perhaps what is observed is the flaws in continuity.