CHOMSKY FOUCAULT DEBATE TRANSCRIPT PDF

In the video recording Content of the transcript differs from the actual recording. Large, yellow English subtitles are burned-in over the original Dutch subtitles. The complete video recording of the program includes opening credits, an introduction by Prof.

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Chomsky, is this: you suppose a basic system of what must be in a way elementary limitations that are present in what you call human nature; to what extent do you think these are subject to historical change? In that case, you could perhaps connect this with the ideas of Mr. CHOMSKY: Well, I think that as a matter of biological and anthropological fact, the nature of human intelligence certainly has not changed in any substantial way, at least since the seventeenth century, or probably since Cro-Magnon man.

And as those conditions change, a given human intelligence will progress to new forms of creation. In fact this relates very closely to the last question that Mr. Elders put, if I can perhaps say a word about that.

Take behavioural science, and think of it in these contexts. It seems to me that the fundamental property of behaviourism, which is in a way suggested by the odd term behavioural science, is that it is a negation of the possibility of developing a scientific theory.

That is, what defines behaviourism is the very curious and self-destructive assumption that you are not permitted to create an interesting theory. If physics, for example, had made the assumption that you have to keep to phenomena and their arrangement and such things, we would be doing Babylonian astronomy today.

Fortunately physicists never made this ridiculous, extraneous assumption, which has its own historical reasons and had to do with all sorts of curious facts about the historical context in which behaviourism evolved.

But looking at it purely intellectually, behaviourism is the arbitrary insistence that one must not create a scientific theory of human behaviour; rather one must deal directly with phenomena and their interrelation, and no more something which is totally impossible in any other domain, and I assume impossible in the domain of human intelligence or human behaviour as well.

Here is a case in point of just the kind of thing that you mentioned and that Mr. Well, it has long since run its course, I think. One forgets about that and puts it aside. Similarly one should put aside the very curious restrictions that define behaviourism; restrictions which are, as I said before, very much suggested by the term behavioural science itself.

We can agree, perhaps, that behaviour in some broad sense constitutes the data for the science of man. But to define a science by its data would be to define physics as the theory of meter-readings.

And so the term itself is symptomatic of the disease in this case. We should understand the historical context in which these curious limitations developed, and having understood them, I believe, discard them and proceed in the science of man as we would in any other domain, that is by discarding entirely behaviourism and in fact, in my view, the entire empiricist tradition from which it evolved. There might be a certain connection.

You see, Mr. Well, if you had a changing system of limitations, this might be connected. We have more possible sciences available intellectually. When we try out those intellectual constructions in a changing world of fact, we will not find cumulative growth. What we will find are strange leaps: here is a domain of phenomena, a certain science applies very nicely; now slightly broaden the range of phenomena, then another science, which is very different, happens to apply very beautifully, perhaps leaving out some of these other phenomena.

First of all I would like to ask Mr. Foucault why he is so interested in politics, because he told me that in fact he likes politics much more than philosophy. But that is not a problem. Your question is: why am I so interested in politics? That is to say, what blindness, what deafness, what density of ideology would have to weigh me down to prevent me from being interested in what is probably the most crucial subject to our existence, that is to say the society in which we live, the economic relations within which it functions, and the system of power which defines the regular forms and the regular permissions and prohibitions of our conduct.

The essence of our life consists, after all, of the political functioning of the society in which we find ourselves. Chomsky, we are all very interested to know your political objectives, especially in relation to your well-known anarcho-syndicalism or, as you formulated it, libertarian socialism. What are the most important goals of your libertarian socialism? Let me begin by referring to something that we have already discussed, that is, if it is correct, as I believe it is, that a fundamental element of human nature is the need for creative work, for creative inquiry, for free creation without the arbitrary limiting effect of coercive institutions, then, of course, it will follow that a decent society should maximise the possibilities for this fundamental human characteristic to be realised.

That means trying to overcome the elements of repression and oppression and destruction and coercion that exist in any existing society, ours for example, as a historical residue. It cannot be justified intrinsically. Rather it must be overcome and eliminated. Now a federated, decentralised system of free associations, incorporating economic as well as other social institutions, would be what I refer to as anarcho-syndicalism; and it seems to me that this is the appropriate form of social organisation for an advanced technological society, in which human beings do not have to be forced into the position of tools, of cogs in the machine.

There is no longer any social necessity for human beings to be treated as mechanical elements in the productive process; that can be overcome and we must overcome it by a society of freedom and free association, in which the creative urge that I consider intrinsic to human nature, will in fact be able to realise itself in whatever way it will. And again, like Mr. Foucault, that we can call our societies in anyway democratic, after listening to this statement from Mr.

When you asked me why I was interested in politics, I refused to answer because it seemed evident to me, but perhaps your question was: How am I interested in it? And had you asked me that question, and in a certain sense I could say you have, I would say to you that I am much less advanced in my way; I go much less far than Mr.

That is to say that I admit to not being able to define, nor for even stronger reasons to propose, an ideal social model for the functioning of our scientific or technological society. On the other hand, one of the tasks that seems immediate and urgent to me, over and above anything else, is this: that we should indicate and show up, even where they are hidden, all the relationships of political power which actually control the social body and oppress or repress it. What I want to say is this: it is the custom, at least in European society, to consider that power is localised in the hands of the government and that it is exercised through a certain number of particular institutions, such as the administration, the police, the army, and the apparatus of the state.

But I believe that political power also exercises itself through the mediation of a certain number of institutions which look as if they have nothing in common with the political power, and as if they are independent of it, while they are not. One knows this in relation to the family; and one knows that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class.

Institutions of knowledge, of foresight and care, such as medicine, also help to support the political power. It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.

And because this domination is not simply the expression in political terms of economic exploitation, it is its instrument and, to a large extent, the condition which makes it possible; the suppression of the one is achieved through the exhaustive discernment of the other. Well, if one fails to recognise these points of support of class power, one risks allowing them to continue to exist; and to see this class power reconstitute itself even after an apparent revolutionary process.

That is, there are two intellectual tasks: one, and the one that I was discussing, is to try to create the vision of a future just society; that is to create, if you like, a humanistic social theory that is based, if possible, on some firm and humane concept of the human essence or human nature. Another task is to understand very clearly the nature of power and oppression and terror and destruction in our own society.

And that certainly includes the institutions you mentioned, as well as the central institutions of any industrial society, namely the economic, commercial and financial institutions and in particular, in the coming period, the great multi-national corporations, which are not very far from us physically tonight [i. Philips at Eindhoven]. Surely we must understand these facts, and not only understand them but combat them. Still, I think it would be a great shame to put aside entirely the somewhat more abstract and philosophical task of trying to draw the connections between a concept of human nature that gives full scope to freedom and dignity and creativity and other fundamental human characteristics, and to relate that to some notion of social structure in which those properties could be realised and in which meaningful human life could take place.

And in fact, if we are thinking of social transformation or social revolution, though it would be absurd, of course, to try to sketch out in detail the goal that we are hoping to reach, still we should know something about where we think we are going, and such a theory may tell it to us.

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Foucault and Chomsky Debate Human Nature

Chomsky, is this: you suppose a basic system of what must be in a way elementary limitations that are present in what you call human nature; to what extent do you think these are subject to historical change? In that case, you could perhaps connect this with the ideas of Mr. CHOMSKY: Well, I think that as a matter of biological and anthropological fact, the nature of human intelligence certainly has not changed in any substantial way, at least since the seventeenth century, or probably since Cro-Magnon man. And as those conditions change, a given human intelligence will progress to new forms of creation. In fact this relates very closely to the last question that Mr. Elders put, if I can perhaps say a word about that.

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Further reading

The moral relativist believes that moral principles are relative to some group, such as a society or a class. This led to some conflict during the Raj. There are no universal or objec Continue Reading Loading… The disagreements between Foucault and Chomsky were several but the most fundamental, it seems to me, is that Foucault was a moral relativist whereas Chomsky is a moral realist. That is what the moral realist denies, in favor of the view that universal standards of conduct do exist and, although this is another step, that they can be discovered and formulated by reasoning about them.

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Chomsky–Foucault debate

The resulting dialogue has been described as one of the most original, provocative, and spontaneous exchanges to have occurred between contemporary philosophers, and above all serves as a concise introduction to their basic theories. What begins as a philosophical argument rooted in linguistics Chomsky and the theory of knowledge Foucault , soon evolves into a broader discussion encompassing a wide range of topics, from science, history, and behaviorism to creativity, freedom, and the struggle for justice in the realm of politics. Excerpts from the video of the debate — which was broadcast on Dutch television — have been circulating online for many years, and a book with a rather liberally translated transcript of the discussion has been published and republished many times. More recently, however, a full video of the debate has surfaced, allowing a group of Dutch anarchists to assist in a new translation of the debate. Noam Chomsky : linguist, historian, philosopher, critic and political activist.

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Human Nature: Justice versus Power

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