A midnight reputation

I have extensively outlined what I saw at the crossroads at midnight. It was nemesis. It wasn’t rock n roll.

In looking at the birth of man, the man of the human sciences, Foucault’s thought crosses the thought of the human limit, in spite of a vocabulary that would seem to be moving in the other direction. Let me say something about that movement. What I mean is that, instead of seeing the human limit dissolving under the stress of the great transformation to capitalism and the turn to a new system of emotional norms, Foucault has been arguing that the classical age saw no human limit, but rather dreamed the happy infinity of the encyclopedia; and then the shutters came down, and the threshold of modernity, the line of our beginning, formed, and that line is distinguished by its discovery of human finality.

In a sense, what is alien to the main and what is the main are two parts of a complete whole. The three lines of alienation from the happiness culture share characteristics with that culture nonetheless. However, alienation has been to the crossroads. At the crossroads, at midnight, when the spirit of ilinx descends on the dry and the dusty savant, the loser, the hanged man who is struggling in the invisible chords of the rope he wove himself – this is when Nemesis becomes the other.

Here is what Foucault writes.

The unthought [impensé] (whatever name one gives to it) is not lodged in man like some squatting nature or a history which may be stratified there, it is, by relation to man, the Other: the fraternal or twin Other, born not of himself, nor in himself, but at his side and at the same time, in an identical novelty, in a duality without recourse. That obscure shore that one all too willingly interprets as an abyss in human nature, or like a fortress that has been singularly lock bolted by his history, is tied to him in a really other fashion; it is at the same time exterior and indispensable to him: a little shadow carried by man emerges in our knowledge, a little blind spot from which it is possible to recognize him. In any case, the unthought served man as a silent and uninterrupted accompaniment since the 19th century. Since it is not in sum anything other than an insistant double, it has never been reflected for itself in any autonomous mode, of that of which it was the other and the shadow, it has received the complementary form and the inversed name; it has been the in itself in the face of the for itself, in Hegel’s phenomenology; it has been the unconscious for Schopenhauer; it has been alienated man for Marx; in Husserl’s analyses, the implicit, the unactual, the sedimented, the non-effectuated: in any case, the inexhaustible doubling which is offered to the reflective understanding as the confused projection of what man is in his truth, but which also plays as well the role of a assumed foundation from which man must construct himself and reference himself up to the point of his truth. It is that this double, however, near, is yet the stranger, and the role of thought, its initiative proper, would be to approach where it is nearest its own self; all modern thought is traversed by the law of thinking the unthought.”

This is great stuff, fabulous stuff. I like the way this man deals the cards. Foucault’s genuine midnight status comes from the fact that he provides the moment in which he can be read backwards. Here is the place to start.