Once more on Madness and Civilization, but this time with some feeling.
First, my apologies. I have not linked to every comment and re-comment about all this. Felt like this blog was becoming somewhat dominated by one thing, and there was some other stuff going on, honestly.
But Bouphonia is good. Speaking of the neo-con chuckling at Scull’s review over at NRO, he says:
It’d be foolish, especially nowadays, to accept James Frazer, W.F. Otto, or Jane Harrison as the last word on Greek religion. But it’d be worse than foolish to dismiss them, unread, on the basis of secondhand accounts of their “errors.” If nothing else, Paletta’s eagerness to make reading Foucault “unthinkable” confirms the accuracy of what Foucault said about polemicists, in an interview he gave shortly before his death:
[T]he person he confronts is not a partner in search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is harmful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat. For him, then, the game consists not of recognizing this person as a subject having the right to speak but of abolishing him as interlocutor, from any possible dialogue; and his final objective will be not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning. The polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.
Perhaps, someday, a long history will have to be written of polemics, polemics as a parasitic figure on discussion and an obstacle to the search for the truth.
As for this eternal question of whether “no one reads Foucault because he’s irrelevant” or whether he’s constantly and irritatingly a “go-to name” the NRO blogger plumps for the latter. Next time around though it could equally well be the former.
You know we heard so often and for so long that “Foucault is not read” in France, that we even included a chapter in our book on the Francophone reception of Foucault today (by Juliet Fall).
Bouphonia links to this review, which while obviously critical of Foucault is an actual engagement rather than “sniping.”