I realize now (as I read Dreyfus and Rabinow) that I completely misread this book. I read it too quickly, and the book is maddeningly eccentric and so difficult to comprehend. Further, I read it without sufficient context either of this book itself, or of Foucault's corpus, or of the philosophical background in which or against which MF is operating. The problem is intensified by the fact that Foucault is one of those thinkers who changed his mind extensively from first to last on important matters, and therefore the philosophy of this early work is theoretically incomplete and does not fully know where it will end up by the end of MF's life. Add to that that there are out-and-out absurdities of method (his historical method) and metaphysical positions that are ridiculous that are both implicit (or explicit) within structures and ideas that are nonetheless profound and of great signficance, with the result that the naive reader (which I am -- especially given how little I know about Continental thought) can hardly disengage and disentangle or, consequently, even read the book at hand with sufficient clarity to get it in any focus.
People assume that the way to read a philosopher is simply to jump in and read the text. This, in my experience, is usually a great mistake. While one cannot understand the expository literature without familiarity with the text, one cannot often really understand the text without the help and guidance of those "who have gone down this path before" -- whether teachers or books. Thus, a good grounding in good secondary literature is often essential to even being able to begin read the texts with any understanding -- especially if the material is fundamentally foreign to one's way of thinking or intellectual experiences -- postwar thought for me; classical (ancient Greek) thought for others.
This is not true for all thinkers -- some can be read and the secondary literature simply debases them. But it is true for many, and seems (for me) to be true for Postmodernism.
At any rate -- this should be re-rated. Either to five, or maybe to something else. Whatever...
One last point - regarding MF's Archaeology and the general claim that all knowledge or discourse is mediated (or indeed, conditioned) by assumptions that cannot be accessed -- that is, on the postmodern claims of the relatively of all knowledge or discourse.
If one has to carve up a turkey, or pull apart a car engine -- or, to maintain the analogy, draw a diagram (a discourse) of the skeleton or the engine to be carved or taken apart -- will this diagram be contaminated by 'theory'? or deep structures? And why not?
For the simple reason that the reality has, at least at the given level, a real structure to it - and it is this real structure that justifies and makes possible analysis -- as a neutral procedure. Thus, for Plato, it is the reality of the theory of Ideas that makes the dialectic and diaeresis possible and effective -- and not the dialectic that "proves" that the Ideas exist. Without the underlying structural realities, the procedures would run into contradictions at every turn, and that they do not in fact do so is proof, by a reductio ad absurdum, of the reality of the Ideas.
Provisionally, of course...
One last point -- about Kuhn's treatment of Aristotle's Physics - which Dreyfus and Rabinow discuss --. Much of what seems "strange" in Aristotle's Physics can be explained simply by two assumptions that were clearly false: He assumes, in cosmogony, that the earth is at the center of the universe, and had to adjust his mathematics to this assumption. The best book on this, apart of course, from Neugebauer's Exact Sciences in Antiquity, is D.R Dicks, Early Greek Astronomy; and because he assumes that rest is the natural state of a body: See Henri Carteron, La notion De Force Dans Le Systeme d'Aristote.
What can one say – how can one rate – a work like this? Certainly, Foucault is a genius… there are portions of this work that are sheer poetry. Yet much of it is errant nonsense – it’s method is completely absurd and fraudulant – yet there lurk beneath the method and the errant – certain deep intuitions – hurled at the reader – hurled at the void – in ways calculated to undermine their seriousness by overvaluing their meaning by… you see, the recursive loop here…?
Rated as philosophy or as poetry, this would receive 5-stars – for its originality, if nothing else. And for its inevitable working out of the modern and postmodern logic of self-annihiliation.... As a work of scholarship or history or, indeed, in its method, it receives one-star. For its influence, which has been baleful – both morally and in the Academy – one star – for it’s flash in the night of a despair that Foucault himself was moving to resolve – had he lived, he’d have ended up perhaps a Platonist… well, there was an evolution of Foucault, no question… 5-stars.
So I’ll give this review just one star, so as to jar the reader. Foucault would approve.