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Michel Foucault: Knowledge has not been made for understanding, but for cutting


Identify and outline main traditions and authors within Western ... Materialism vs. idealism. Secular (vs. priestly) civilization. Politics (direct) Democracy ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Michel Foucault: Knowledge has not been made for understanding, but for cutting

  • Michel Foucault Knowledge has not been made for
    understanding, but for cutting

My Goals for this class
  • At the end of the course, you should be able to
  • Identify and outline main traditions and authors
    within Western political theory, as well as main
    relations between them.
  • Use these ideas and authors to trace beliefs that
    are dominant within contemporary American society
    and your own thinking.

Roots of the West
  • Ebenstein Ebenstein
  • Ch. 1

Why Western Political Theory?What is the
  • Ebenstein Ebenstein
  • The West is not a geographical place.
  • The West is not Western Origins in the
    Mediterranean Sea
  • Athens, Jerusalem, Rome, Byzantium, Paris,
    London, New York Los Angeles Where else?
  • Worldwide expansion
  • Geographical Mobility of the West

Ebenstein Ebenstein The West is defined by
  • -A set of fundamental, universal ideas
  • (Greek) Reason
  • (Jewish) Ethics
  • (Christian) Love

  • Belief in reason (Ancient Greece) 6th century
    B.C. The Greek civilization produced an original
  • 2. Monotheism and concern with Justice (Judaism).
    First society organized around the concept of an
    only God.
  • ? consistency between beliefs and practical
  • Whereas the supreme Greek ideal was to think
    clearly, the supreme Jewish aspiration was to act
  • 3. Love. Christianity incorporated the
    rationalist Greek tradition and the (Jewish)
    concern with being morally and religiously
    consistent. With Jesus Paul, it added the idea
    that love founds the relationship between God and
    humans and thus it should found the relationships
    between humans themselves.

  • Principles such as
  • Reason
  • Ethics, and
  • Love
  • Be all embodied at the same time?

Ebenstein Ebenstein judge Nazism a
renunciation of western values and communism
frequently a perversion and distortion of
western ideas and ideals (4). Do you agree with
them? Why? What should be said about racism and
Greek Thought
  • Plato Aristotle represent a decaying Greece
  • (Trend in history? Cicero also represents a
    decaying Rome, and major historical periods do
    not necessarily produce major theoristsex the
    French Revolution)
  • http//www.wadsworth.com/philosophy_d/special_feat

Birth of Western Philosophy/Science
  • 6th Century B.C Pre-Socratic Thought
  • Ionian communities
  • Miletus (Tales, Anaximander, Anaximenes)
  • No written works of the Milesian School were

5th B.C. Greek Empire? hundreds of city-states
Greek Discovery concept of Nature
  • (Physis)
  • Revolutionary break with Animist conceptions
    that freed reason. Nature can be understood)
  • Xenophanes vs. Homer
  • Laws
  • Empiricism
  • Laymen as Intellectuals

Pre-Socratic Thought( Sophists )
  • Humanist (human beings are creative and rational
    but fallible)
  • Empiricist (commitment with empirical observation
    and discovery of natural laws). Knowledge is
  • Democratic (no permanent or absolute truth truth
    must result from the confrontation of opinions)
  • Protagoras Democritus favored both science and
    democracy (Why?)

  • For the first time in history, in Greece a group
    of individuals who were not priests, devoted
    themselves systematically to thinking ( art) in
    a way that could be linked to religion but was
    also independent of it.
  • Led to the extreme, the development of critical
    thinking produced a the critique of religion (ex.
  • Sophists (Protagoras) man is the measure of all
    things ?
  • Humanism
  • Realistic and tragic view of Humankind
  • Life work of art

Sophists (450-350 B.C.)
  • Sophist skilled craftsman and wise and
    prudent man.
  • Traveled giving lectures and teaching (for a fee)
    mostly political skills (middle-classes)
  • Sophists
  • Education for leadership, persuasion through
  • Realism (consideration of things as they are and
    not as they should be).
  • Social Contract (Laws institutions are
  • Democratic views (gvt. By consent, the majority
    has a better right to decide than any enlightened
  • Derogatory connotations due to Platos criticisms

From Tales onwards
  • All of nature can be understood through Reason,
    because it is
  • Governed by (rational) laws
  • The laws of Nature express a divine rationality,
    but the Gods themselves are subjected to those
  • The Greek Gods (? the Judeo-Chistian God) are not
    above nature
  • All of them live together in the Polis
  • (Universe)

  • 590 B.C. Solons (Democratic) Constitution
  • 479 B.C. Defeat of the Persian Empire (peak of
    Athens power).
  • 430 B.C. Pericles Our government is called a
    democracy because it is in the hands of the many
    and not of the few.()we regard a person who
    takes no interest in public affairs, not as
    quiet but as useless.
  • Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) Defeat
  • 4th century B.C. 45,000-50,000 citizens (about
    150,000 people)
  • Self-governed polity (Greek invention of gvt. by
    popular assemblies)
  • Conquered in 338 B.C. by Macedon and reduced to a
    province of the Roman Empire in 146 B.C.

  • Philosophy
  • Thought (experimental) Science
  • Process of Learning

Socrates (469-399 B.C.)
  • No written work
  • Use of knowledge (philosophy) to discover the
    path to human self-mastery.
  • Dialogues (questions and answers but no final
    answers). Critical examination of all positions?
  • Dialectics (knowledge emerges from the very
    process, in the movement of asking questions)
  • Beauty virtue wisdom If moral life depends
    on knowledge, then virtue, or doing the good, and
    philosophy, or knowing the good, become
    identical. (14)
  • Socrates The unexamined life is not worth

The Dangers of Theory
  • Socrates was judged and found guilty, and he
    chose to drink poison before the prospects of
    exile (Socrates defense is contained in the
    Apology, written by Plato).

Greek Inventions/Contributions
  • Philosophy ( science) Rational examination of
    nature and human nature
  • Physical phenomena are general, universal, and
  • Materialism vs. idealism
  • Secular (vs. priestly) civilization
  • Politics
  • (direct) Democracy
  • Free thought and free speech
  • (because) Truth is complex

Plato a decaying Athens
  • E E Far from being the culmination of Greek
    civilization, Plato is the beginning of the end
  • Pessimism
  • Thought control
  • Anti-democratic
  • Idealist

  • What is destiny? How do power and fate relate to
    each other?
  • What do Creon and Antigone respectively highlight
    and overlook about power?
  • Who is right and who is wrong? Or, rather, how
    are they right and wrong?
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