File spoon-archives/foucault.archive/foucault_2004/foucault.0410, message 20

Date: Fri, 08 Oct 2004 11:17:53 -0400
Subject: Re: happy positivism

To add to a somewhat funny discussion, 'heureux' can be used in French 
to designate something desirable. Foucault's proposition could thus be 
taken to mean that it is desirable to be positivist (or to adopt a 
positivit attitude)... and maybe (or maybe not) it makes more sense this 
way in light of the existentialist criticism outlined here.


Clare O'Farrell a écrit:

> On the subject of 'happy positivism'. There was a well-known review of 
> The Order of Things published in Les Temps Modernes (Sartre's journal) 
> in 1967 by Simone de Beauvoir's secretary/assistant Sylvie Le Bon. The 
> title of this piece was 'Un positiviste desespere: Michel Foucault' (a 
> desperate positivist). Georges Canguilhem referred to this criticism 
> in his own 1967 review of Foucault's work in the journal Critique. 
> Obviously the term  positivist was intended as an insult in relation 
> to Foucault's 'structuralist' stance. Thus Foucault's remark about 
> being happy to be a positivist was an oblique response to this 
> (existentialist) criticism.
>  Happy would definitely be the right word in this context! There are 
> quite a few problems with that first translation of The order of 
> discourse.
> At 23:53 -0400 6/10/04, Brodie Richards wrote:
>> I do not recall Foucault using the exact phrase "happy positivism" 
>> not at least in the English translation of Archealogy of Knowledge. 
>> What he does say about it is on page 125 of A/K and what I think 
>> leads to the phrase being created by commentators is the following 
>> passage. He says: "If,  by substituting the analysis of rarity for 
>> the search for totalities, the description of relations of 
>> exteriority for the theme of transcendental foundation, the analysis 
>> of accumulations for the quest of origin, one is a positivst, then I 
>> am quite happy to be one."  This is referring back, on the same page, 
>> to his "willingness" to use the term "positivty" to describe the 
>> emergence of a discursive formation.  So, unless I am wrong, F. 
>> himself does say he is employing a "happy positivism".  In this 
>> sense, the term positivity is more important to his argument and to 
>> any argument about what he meant than the phrase "happy positivism." 
>> "Happy positivism" has a polemical usfulness but not much else in my 
>> opinion.

François Gagnon
Département de Communication
Université de Montréal


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