Another chunk from my journal. It's not as travel a journal these days.
01 May 2008. 1:07pm.
I've been thinking a lot about Foucault lately.
Not something I necessarily do of my own free choice (it's not like he's Kierkegaard or something) but it's what I'm doing, nonetheless - slogging through his essays as if my life, and not just my grade, depended on it.
I was thumbing through "Truth and Power" today, and I stumbled across Foucault's definition of truth - through five characteristics.
- Truth is "centered on the form of scientific discourse and the institutions that produce it";
- Truth is "subject to constant economic and political incitement";
- Truth is "the object, under diverse forms, of information whose extent is relatively broad in the social body";
- Truth is "produced and transmitted under the control, dominant if not exclusive, of a few great political and economic apparatuses (university, army, writing, media)"; and
- Truth is "the issue of a whole political debate and social confrontation (ideological struggles)".
What does all that doodoo caca mean, you ask? I'll tell you. Basically, until postmodernism reared its ugly head, most people believed that truth was something outside of the world, untouched by power, ambition, or the wiles of man.
Then, at the beginning of the twentieth century, people began to reject objectivity. People began to realize that there's a whole lot less that's objective and most things are completely subjective - based entirely on perception and bias.
It was only natural that this would lead to the idea that Truth itself - that's big 'T' Truth - is manufactured, created, invented. Which is exactly what Foucault is saying here - truth is completely dependent on its subjective surroundings.
But I don't agree with him. Maybe it's because, despite my Unamunanian/Kierkegaardian tendencies, I'm still optimistic enough to believe that big 'T' Truth is, in fact, objective - it's outside of the sphere of humanity's influence.
The problem arises, however, in humanity itself - the minute man gets involved, things get messy, things get confused, things get subjective. That objective Truth can speak to us, but the moment we open our mouths, the minute we try to express that Truth to others, it's tainted. It's influenced. We infect it.
Thus, for example, the difficulties that are born from the Bible. You can say it's the perfect, immutable word of God all you want, but it still came to us through the mouths and pens of less-than-perfect individuals, whose words were then copied, translated, and bastardized a bajillion times before we got our grubby little hands on it. Frankly, it's a miracle we've got as much of it as we do in as okay a form as it's in - but it sure isn't perfect.
I guess that's why, ultimately, it's more important what that Truth speaks to you personally. If humankind could transmit the Truth perfectly, that would be great - but we can't, so everyone's got their own version of truth that they try to sell us, manufactured and packaged for easy, vapid consumption, and pretty far away from big 'T' Truth altogether.
Okay, enough Foucault. On to Lyotard. Stupid Frenchie philosophers.