Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 19

Wesleyan University

Historicity and Transcendentality: Foucault, Cavaills, and the Phenomenology of the Concept
Author(s): Kevin Thompson
Source: History and Theory, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Feb., 2008), pp. 1-18
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25478720 .
Accessed: 12/06/2013 19:33
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Wiley and Wesleyan University are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to History
and Theory.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

History and Theory 47 (February 2008),

? Wesleyan

1-18

University 2008 ISSN: 0018-2656

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY:
FOUCAULT,

CAVAILLES,

AND THE

PHENOMENOLOGYOF THE CONCEPT

KEVIN THOMPSON

ABSTRACT

It argues
that the coher
with Foucault's
historical
is concerned
paper
methodology.
the historical
of a set of tools for unearthing
of his project
lies in its development
in the epochs
that have shaped
the present
that govern
age.
thought and practice
principles
Accord
transcendental
and historical.
claimed
that these principles
Foucault
are, at once,

This

ence

on his having
soundness
of Foucault's
developed
project
depends
ingly, the philosophical
a satisfactory
and the
of the transcendental
the absolutist
between
way of passage
purism
The paper shows
that the key to seeing how Fou
of the historical.
mundane
contingency
and largely unexplored
lies in a surprising
this desideratum
cault achieved
methodological
as it was
Husserlian
phenomenology
acknowledged:
explicitly
in the thought of the philosopher
of logic and mathemat
and practiced
of the concept.
I call the phenomenology
ics, Jean Cavailles?what
the two most
lines of interpreta
The essay has four parts. The first sketches
prominent
are
not
and
that
both
least because
tion of Foucault's
argues
they
inadequate,
methodology
tradition

that he himself

taken up, modified,

The
second
Foucault's
part lays out the rudi
heritage.
phenomenological
strand of the phenomenological
tradition
of the neglected
inaugurated
by Cavailles's
This
in turn, to set the
of Husserlian
method.
and appropriation
serves,
critique
important
and then Foucault's
distinct
first, Canguilhem's
stage for the third part that examines,
proj

both

dismiss

ments

ects

for grasping
scendental?their

the transcendental

within

the historical,

and

the historical

within

the tran

of Cavailles's
continuations
of the concept.
phenomenology
respective
a brief consideration
of the pathways
with
that this way of reading
The essay concludes
of power,
Foucault
the nexus
and subjectivation
up for understanding
opens
knowledge,
that came to define his work.

Throughout his complex and unorthodox historical investigations, Foucault al


ways held that he was pursuing a single philosophical project, what he ultimately
came to call a Critical History of Thought. In the years since his death, the con
sistency as well as the coherence of this endeavor has been called into question.
In what follows, Iwant to explore an approach to reading Foucault that not only
seeks to substantiate the unity of his work, but also helps us to see precisely its
stakes. My contention is that the coherence of Foucault's project lies in the sin
gularity of its aim: to unearth the stratum of experience that governs the thought
and practice of the historical epochs that have shaped the present age. Foucault's
work was an examination of the conditions in and through which we have come
to be what we are; it thus continually
is our present?

poses, for us, but one central question: what

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

KEVIN THOMPSON

this point, convention would dictate that we enter into the various ongo
over the periodization of Foucault's texts, the shift in method from
debates
ing
to genealogy
to problematization,
and the change in problematics
archaeology
At

from knowledge
tent employment

to power

to subjectivation.
of a specific methodology
I shall call a phenomenology

But I believe

that Foucault's

consis

in the pursuit of the question of the


across all these
of the concept?cuts

present?what
disputes. Indeed, it is only insofar as we situate his work within this important,
and admittedly surprising, framework that we can begin to see its real significance
and understand the challenge that it can still set before us.
said that his histories were unconventional

in that they sought to get


of experience that eludes those concerned with what has been said,
what has been done, and what has been endured, the collection of facts we typi
Foucault

at a dimension

cally call human history; he designated this dimension with a variety of terms or
and les
phrases throughout his career: epistemes, dispositifs, problematisations,
I
shall
with
be concerned
just one
jeux de verite. For the purposes of this essay,
of his earliest markers for this dimension: the historical a priori. Foucault defined
this concept as the historical set of rules that serve as the conditions for the emer
gence and interrelations of the experience of discursive and nondiscursive bodies.
But what precisely did he mean by such rules?
a priori, the principles Foucault sought were neither physical causes nor
empirical regularities. They did not bring about an effect nor were they simply
persistent patterns of material processes. Instead, what Foucault searched for was
the set of requirements that various kinds of knowledge and ways of acting had to
Being

fulfill in order to be counted as valid instances of knowing


objects and events involved in these forms of knowledge
in order

to be

what Foucault's

counted

as

historical

existing

entities

occurrences

at all.

In

this

sense,

studies tracked were

of which

thinking, doing, and being become

Foucault

sought

were

and

and acting, and that the


and action had tomeet

the necessary structures by virtue


possible. In a word, then, the rules

transcendental.

to say that a set of structures is transcendental has historically meant that


the conditions in question are not only necessary, but universal and timeless; that
they are unalterable and applicable without temporal or spatial limits. Foucault's
Now

coupling

of

the

terms

"a priori"

It seems

and

"historical"

to contaminate

thus

appears

to produce

a self

the purity of the universal with


held that specific sets of transcen

contradictory concept.
the contingency of the particular. But Foucault
dental rules, different conditions for thought, action, and being, can be shown to
define different historical epochs. How, then, is this possible? How can a set of
conditions be at once the operative structures by virtue of which thought and ac
tion are what they are, and at the same time be mutable forms that set down the
boundaries of acceptability for what is knowable and doable within a specific age?
How is something to be at once transcendental and historical and how is it to be
grasped as such?
This, we can say, is the core concern of Foucault's critical history of thought. It
seeks nothing less than to grasp the simultaneity of historicity and transcendental
soundness of Foucault's project thus depends on his hav
ity. The philosophical
ing worked out a satisfactory way of passage between the Scylla of the timeless

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 3
universality of the transcendental and the Charybdis of the mundane contingency
of the historical, a pathway that integrates the necessity of the transcendental
with the bounded specificity of the historical. The aim of what follows is to show
that this is just what Foucault's

phenomenology

of the concept was dedicated

to

achieving.

require a detailed survey of the entire


ty of Foucault's historical investigations, along with an assessment of his repeated
criticisms of the phenomenological
tradition.1 This is obviously beyond the limits
A full substantiation of this claim would

of the present essay. Instead, the strategy Iwill pursue is to reconstruct a part of
tradition within which Foucault situated himself on
the relevant methodological
as it was taken up, modified,
occasions: Husserlian phenomenology
and practiced in the thought of the philosopher of logic and mathematics,
Jean
and
the
tradition
of
the
of
scientific
Cavailles,
phenomenology
rationality that
most
out
his
in
the
of
research
of
the
historian
of sci
work,
emerged
prominently
numerous

ence, Georges Canguilhem.2 My contention is that the key to understanding how


Foucault sought to think the simultaneity of the transcendental and the historical
vein.
lies in this largely unexplored methodological
The essay has four parts. The first sketches two of the most prominent lines of
I argue that both, though fundamentally
interpretation of Foucault's methodology.
at odds in so many ways, prove nonetheless
to be ultimately unsatisfactory be
cause they both dismiss Foucault's phenomenological
heritage. The second part
out
the rudiments of the neglected strand of the phenomenological
tradition
lays
inaugurated by Cavailles's
important critique and appropriation of Husserlian
method. This serves, in turn, to set the stage for the third part, inwhich I examine,
first, Canguilhem's and then Foucault's distinct projects for grasping the transcen
dental within the historical, and the historical within the transcendental?their
respective continuations of Cavailles's
concludes with a brief consideration
Foucault opens up for understanding
tivation that came to define his work.

of the concept. The essay


phenomenology
of the pathways that this way of reading
the nexus of power, knowledge, and subjec

1. For discussions
of Foucault's
various treatments of the phenomenological
tradition, see Gerard
in Les mots et les choses,"
inMichel
Foucault
Lebrun, "Notes on Phenomenology
Philosopher,
transl. Timothy
J. Armstrong
(New York: Routledge,
1992), 20-37; Thomas R. Flynn, Sartre,
and Historical
Reason: Volume Two: A Poststructuralist
Foucault,
Mapping
of History
(Chicago:
of Chicago Press, 2005), chaps. 8-9; Todd May, "Foucault's Relation
to Phenomenology,"
University
to Foucault,
in The Cambridge
2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
ed. Gary Gutting,
Companion
on Freedom
and Johanna Oksala, Foucault
Press, 2005), 284-311;
(Cambridge, UK:
Press, 2005), chap. 2.
Cambridge University
2.1 thus take issue with David Macey's
claim that "[i]t would be an error to identify Foucault
too
as the latter's work is grounded
in the pure phenomenology
of Husserl"
closely with Cavailles,
{The
Lives of Michel
Foucault
that seek
[New York: Pantheon Books,
1993], 132). For other accounts
to draw out the link between Foucault
and Cavailles
see Stephen Watson,
in quite different ways,
University

"'Between

Tradition

and the Esthetics

and Oblivion':

of Existence,"
UK: Cambridge

the Complications
Foucault,
in The Cambridge
Companion

of Form, the Literatures of Reason,


to Foucault,
1st
ed. Gary Gutting,
and David Hyder,
262-285;
"Foucault,

ed. (Cambridge,
Press,
1994),
University
on the Historical
and Husserl
of the Sciences,"
on Science
Cavailles,
Epistemology
Perspectives
11 (2003),
107-129. Others,
in addition to Canguilhem,
who followed Cavailles
in developing
and
of scientific
include Suzanne Bachelard,
Jean Ladriere,
and
pursuing a phenomenology
rationality
Francois

Delaporte.

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

KEVIN THOMPSON
I

If what we have said thus far is correct, if the real barometer by which to gauge the
of Foucault's philosophical project is his attempt to work out a viable

coherence

a priori, then two lines of interpretation of this project are


to the first, the historical a priori is nothing more
especially important. According
than a set of empirical patterns articulating common ways of speaking and acting;
theory of the historical

according to the second, the field of the a priori only becomes historical insofar
as it is traversed, from without, by force relations. At the center of the divergence
in these approaches stands the question of the status of the historical a priori. As
a way into this issue, let us consider more carefully the rudiments of the case that
each

of

these

advances.

readings

The most

important advocate of the first line of interpretation is Beatrice Han.3


She has sought to extend a version of the critique first developed by Dreyfus and
Rabinow,4 namely, that Foucault's attempt to show that a set of rules serves as the
conditions for the possibility of what is sayable, or more properly of what is ac
ceptable, within a particular discipline in a specific historical period fails because
double that
it is itself nothing other than a repetition of the founded-founding
Foucault himself had shown to constitute the analytic of finitude in the science
a historical a priori can only be an empirical scheme, a de
of man. Accordingly,
scriptive pattern that seeks to articulate common ways of speaking, but it cannot
be the normative and efficacious principles of language itself. People may act in
accordance with these rules, but they do not actually follow them. A historical a
priori, Han thus argues, is just an empirical regularity, nothing more, nothing less.
But this, of course, is to say that Foucault's aspirations for a truly transcendental
foundation for his research, a project that would set out and maintain the integrity
of the transcendental field, are ultimately left unfulfilled. The ontology required
a truly

for

account

coherent

of

the

transcendental

is missing,

Han

argues,

and

in

its stead all that is left is an unacknowledged


empiricism. The empirical has been
to
in
the
transcendental.
made
stand
for
The second line of interpretation was set out by Gilles Deleuze.5 On this read
ing, the real heart of Foucault's work is its challenge to the empirical dogma
that we speak of that which we see, and that we see that of which we speak; in
other

words,

that words

and

things

bear

an essential

referential

interrelation.

Fou

cault calls this assumption into question by opening up the transcendental stratum
whose rules govern both what is sayable, the conditions for the formation and
usage of words, and what is visible, the conditions for the formation and employ
ment of things. Two heterogeneous but interrelated a priori forms thus constitute
this field: statements and visible objects.
et le transcen
Entre Vhistorique
Foucault:
de Michel
Han, L'ontologie
manquee
1998). A revised version of this text was translated into English
(Grenoble: Jerome Millon,
transl. Edward Pile
and the Historical,
the Transcendental
as Foucault's
Critical Project: Between
3. Beatrice

dental

Press, 2002).
(Stanford: Stanford University
and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault:
4. Hubert Dreyfus
Beyond Structuralism
of Chicago Press, 1983).
2nd ed. (Chicago: University
de Minuit,
Foucault
5. Gilles Deleuze,
1986); Foucault,
(Paris: Les Editions
(Minneapolis:

University

of Minnesota

Press,

1988).

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

and Hermeneutics,
transl. Sean Hand

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 5
Now Deleuze argues that with this line of interpretation comes a profound prob
lem. The conditions of the say able hold a position of priority over those of the visi
ble. Language possesses an intrinsic spontaneity, and, as such, can play a distinctly
determining role; light, however, the condition for what is visible, provides only
a space of receptivity: it is solely a sphere of determinability. Hence, a version of
the Kantian problematic of the relation of spontaneity and receptivity, of imagina
tion and intuition, reemerges in Foucault, and herein lies, on Deleuze's reading, its
decisive dilemma: how can the heterogeneous conditions of language and light be
adapted to each other? How can the forms of the say able, the conditions of sponta
neity, be joined with the forms of the visible, the conditions of intuition?
Foucault's

answer,

according

to Deleuze's

a web of force relations. Conceived


are

affected

neous

forces are fundamentally

elements,

qualitative

one

by

and

another.

receptive?and

As
they

is the

analysis,

of

theory

as

power

in terms of differentials

a result,

forces

are

able

thus

of quantitative and
one another and
affect
pathic: they
are

a third

to adapt

form?at

once,
schematize

or, better,

sponta
state

is visible. Force relations thus act as the requisite mediating axis


these disparate forms and thus make possible the joining of words to

ments with what


between

things, reference itself.


Deleuze argues that since force relations are, by definition, unstable, variable,
and constantly in a state of evolution, then the mutations and shifts of rules from
one historical epoch to another are a result of their intervention in the transcen
stratum. Forces, on this reading, are thus the site of the historical, what
calls the "non-place" of mutation. But this means that the play of forces,
as a mediating axis, necessarily remains distinct from the transcendental stratum

dental

Deleuze

intervenes on this field, infecting it from without with the flux of


but the transcendental itself is, on this analysis, held distinct from the
of alteration, the movement of history. Access to the transcendental in

itself. Their web


becoming,
movement

Foucault, on Deleuze's
reading, has thus been bought at the price of maintaining
its separation, its purity, with respect to the domain of becoming. History neces
sarily enters the a priori only from without. History itself is not endemic to the
transcendental.
Now

these

disparate

readings

present

a rather

stark,

and

apparently

irresolv

the integrity of the transcendental


able, choice: either (in the case of Deleuze)
must be bought at the price of relegating the historical to the impurity of empirical
as
becoming, or (in the case of Han) the transcendental must be acknowledged
nothing other than the empirical in disguise, itsmutability the consequence of the
impossibility of keeping it free from the taint of the mundane. However, this is a
fundamentally false dilemma. It is rooted in a profound misreading of Foucault's
project, one that these otherwise deeply divergent interpretations actually share.
Both approaches assume a conventional understanding of the a priori as a di
mension devoid of the capacity to change, and they thereby fail to recognize the
truly innovative conception of the a priori that Foucault was able to develop by
resources born in the tradition of the phenomenol
employing the methodological
ogy of the concept. The fact that both approaches dismiss Foucault's distinctive
heritage means that they fail properly to understand his most
tool. In order to interpret Foucault properly, then, we
significant methodological

phenomenological

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

6
must

seek to reconstruct

KEVIN THOMPSON

this heritage. What,

then, precisely

is a phenomenology

of the concept?
II
On

two

separate

in

occasions?both

1978,

a lecture,

one,

the other,

an

introduc

insisted on setting the trajectory of his work within the lineage of


reflection that had been instigated by Cavailles. Certainly the most
philosophical
well known instance of this occurs in the Introduction Foucault wrote for the Eng
tion?Foucault

lish translation of Georges Canguilhem's The Normal


Here Foucault proposed an alternative mapping

and the Pathological.6


of the terrain of postwar

thought. Rather than the standard divisions between Marxists and non
Marxists,
specialists and academics, theoreticians and politicians, Foucault ar
that
another, much deeper cleavage ran throughout all these streams: the
gued
French

separation between a philosophy of experience, meaning, and the subject (with


and a philosophy of
which he associates principally Sartre and Merleau-Ponty),
and
the
which
he
includes
Cavailles, Gaston
(in
concept
rationality,
knowledge,
Bachelard, Alexandre Koyre, and Canguilhem himself). This cleavage, he notes,
was certainly much older than the postwar period, but its real import was felt, he
tells us, in the way inwhich it shaped the reception of Husserlian phenomenology
he says?refer
during the years just before the war. Specifically, phenomenology,
set
to
delivered
in
Paris
in 1929 and
the
of
lectures
that
Husserl
ring principally
that were first published
cartesiennes1?"allowed

in French

translation

in 1931 under the titleMeditations

of two readings."8 One sought to radicalize it in the di


and subjectivity, while the other tried to return this new
method to its roots in questions of formalism, intuitionism, and the quest to work
out a pure theory of logic. Foucault aligns his own body of work with this latter
rection of consciousness

6. Foucault presented the lecture in question, "Qu'est-ce que la critique? (Critique et Aufklarung),"
on the 27th of May,
A transcript of the lecture was
1978 before the Societe franchise de philosophic
84 (1990); 35-63; "What
de philosophie
in Bulletin de la societe francaise
published posthumously
inMichel Foucault, The Politics
is Critique,"
transl. Lysa Hochroth,
of Truth, ed. Sylvere Lotringer
is the text Foucault con
and Lysa Hochroth
1997), 23-82. The Introduction
(New York: Semiotext(e),
"Introduction
The Normal and the Pathological:
translation of Canguilhem's
tributed for the English
III. 1976-1979,
ed. Daniel Defert and
in his Dits et ecrits: 1954-1988.
Volume
par Michel Foucault"
in The Normal
"Introduction by Michel Foucault"
Francois Ewald (Paris: Gallimard,
1994), 429-442;
transl. Carolyn R. Fawcett in collaboration with Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht: D.
1978, repr. New York: Zone Books,
1991), 7-24. Foucault revised this text in April of 1984 for
"La vie: l'experience et la science," Revue de metaphy
inclusion in a volume dedicated to Canguilhem,
IV. 1980
Volume
sique et de morale 90, no. 1 (1985), 3-14; reprinted inDits et ecrits: 1954-1988.

and the Pathological,


Reidel,

and
1994), 763-776; "Life: Experience
1988, ed. Daniel Defert and Francois Ewald (Paris: Gallimard,
Essential Works of Foucault,
and Epistemology:
transl. Robert Hurley in Aesthetics, Method,
It was,
Volume Two, ed. James D. Faubion (New York: The New Press, 1998), 465-478.
1954-1984,

Science,"

apparently, the last of his writings


7. Edmund Husserl, Meditations
Pfeiffer

on which

he was

cartesiennes:

able to work before

Introduction

(Paris: Vrin, 1953). On


see the editor's "Einleitung"

Levinas

and Emmanuel

his death.

a la phenomenologie,

transl. Gabrielle

the history of these lectures and the circum


und Pariser
Meditationen
in Cartesianische

stances of this translation,


Band I (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
1973).
Vortrdge, ed. Stephan Strasser, Husserliana,
Volume
III.
8. Michel
"Introduction
Foucault," Dits et ecrits: 1954-1988.
Foucault,
par Michel
9. Cf. "La
and the Pathological,
Foucault," The Normal
430; "Introduction by Michel
1976-1979,
IV. 1980-1988,
Volume
et la science," Dits et ecrits: 1954-1988.
vie: l'experience
764; "Life:
Experience

and Science,"

in Faubion,

ed., Aesthetics,

Method,

and Epistemology,

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

466.

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 7
strand and finds in it a distinctive
enment:

who

taking up of the central question of the Enlight

are we?9

But how could a research agenda dedicated to the most abstract of problems,
the foundations of logic and mathematics, have anything to do with the questions
that were

the main

to become

themes

of Foucault's

research:

power,

knowledge,

and the formation of modern subjectivity? Wouldn't one think that a philosophy
of subjectivity, a philosophy of meaning and responsibility, would have much
more to say about such matters as these? I shall come back to these questions at
the conclusion of this paper, but if we can lay out the arc along which Foucault
saw him
sought to think the simultaneity of transcendentality and historicity, and
self in doing so as carrying forward the tradition begun by Cavailles, then we can
ap
perhaps begin to see what itwas about this specific type of phenomenological
nexus of power,
proach that ultimately led him to grapple with the problem of the
knowledge, and even subjectivation.
seminal essay, Sur la logique et la theorie de la
are
science,
theory
fairly straightforward. Its aim is to develop a comprehensive
of science. His most important insight was that such a theory must not just specify
legitimate deductive forms, nor merely ground such a project in a properly con
The rudiments of Cavailles's

ceived epistemology, but that itmust ultimately


sary intrinsic progress of scientific knowledge

be able to account for the neces


itself. That

is to say, the theory

of con
between a philosophy
the same distinction
inMay, Foucault employed
in a way that is quite similar to the Introduction. As
of the concept
and a philosophy
in which Husserlian
to account for the disparate ways
he used this cleavage
in the Introduction,
was appropriated
in postwar France. And yet in the lecture, unlike the published
phenomenology
9. In the lecture

sciousness

the textual reference

work,

was

Wissenschaften
europaischen
this seemingly
inconsequential
mately at issue is establishing

not to the Cartesianische


und die
variation

tranzendentale

Meditationen,

Phanomenologie
lies in the fact that whereas

but rather to Die Krisis

der

of
[1936]. The significance
in the Introduction what is ulti

work in the history of science, in the


the importance of Canguilhem's
own emerging concern:
Foucault's
ismuch more specifically
lecture, the matter under consideration
establish
and power. And while the Carte sianische Meditationen
the relationship between knowledge

in the Krisis Husserl


method of description,
the transcendental
of the phenomenological
foundations
and autonomy, a collapse that
seeks to show how the collapse of the classical search for apodicticity
is the root
form of explanation,
of the naturalistic
takes place with the Enlightenment's
privileging
as he wrote.
It is thus this
that was engulfing Germany
grew the barbarism
to scientific knowledge
and practice that
of the crisis of rationality and its relationship
not primarily in
the question of Enlightenment,
provides the context within which Foucault conceives
terms of who we are, but as the question of the relationship between the historical formation of scien
leads to the fury of power?"
tific knowledge
and mechanisms
of power: "how is it that rationalization
out of which

element

examination

Bulletin de la societe francaise


de philosophic,
("Qu'est-ce que la critique? [Critique et Aufklarung],"
inMichel Foucault, The Politics
transl. Lysa Hochroth
44; "What is Critique,"
of Truth, 42).
de
10. Jean Cavailles,
Sur la logique et la theorie de la science
(Paris: Presses Universitaires
transl. Theodore
J. Kisiel
in Phenomenology
France,
1947); "On Logic and the Theory of Science,"
and

ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans


and Theodore
J. Kisiel
IL:
Sciences,
(Evanston,
to this work are designated
in
Press,
1970), 357-409. All further references
University
the text as "SLTS" followed by the appropriate page reference to the French edition and then to the
I have modified
translation. Where
the translation. Cavailles
this text
necessary,
composed
English
in 1942 during one of several internments he suffered as a founding member of the first Resistance
the Natural

Northwestern

in France. The essay was published posthumously,


with Canguilhem
serving as co-edi
death while
forces in 1944. For
tor, due to Cavailles's
imprisoned by German
counterintelligence
an account of Cavailles's
A
life, see the biography by his sister, Gabrielle
Ferrieres, Jean Cavailles:
in Time of War, 1930-1944,
transl. T. N. F. Murtagh
(Lewiston, MA: The Edwin Mellen
Philosopher

movement

Press,

2000).

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

KEVIN THOMPSON

must be able to account for the historicity of science. Cavailles


rejected the most
candidates
a
of
his
for
such
neo-Kantianism
prominent
day
theory?Bolzano's
and Carnap's logical positivism?because
both, albeit for different reasons, turn
out in the end to be reductionistic, each failing to preserve, at one and the same
time, the objectivity of the fundamental principles of scientific investigation and
their historical development. Cavailles therefore turns to Husserlian phenomenol
ogy and, in particular, to the concept of intentionality as the best hope for working
out a theory of science that would meet these stringent demands.
For Husserl, the key to unlocking the nature of science is its
relationship to for
mal

logic and, of this, to its being founded upon the constitutive performances of
a transcendental logic. Husserl argues that the purpose of formal
consciousness,

logic is to lay down a normative framework within which scientific investiga


tion can be carried out and its results validated. Logic is fundamentally,
then,
the methodology
of scientific inquiry. It follows that the basic task of a phenom
enology of logic is to disclose and clarify the fundamental standards of evidence
and the norms of intuitive fulfillment

that undergird inference, explanation, and


truth that, in turn, properly govern the construction of propositions,
theories, and
their ultimate justifications. According
to the investigations Husserl carried out,
text that Cavailles
principally inFormale und transzendentale Logik [1927]?the
submits to an especially careful analysis?formal
logic necessarily presupposes,
and is thereby said to be founded in, pre-predicative experience, what Husserl fa
mously calls a life-world (Lebenswelt), and for this reason the discipline is prop
erly deemed a "world-logic" (Weltlogik).11
On Husserl's analysis, then, formal logic and, by implication, the sciences that
fall under its governance, are life-world constructions?cultural
formations?and
their development
is thus the work of human consciousness
itself. Cavailles con
cludes from this that the core project of phenomenology
is contained in itsmethod
of regressive inquiry or questioning-back
it
seeks to open up empiri
(Ruckfrage):
cal history in order to expose the buried layers of sedimentation, the prior consti
tutive acts, that have accrued within
intentional

sense-history,

their

scientific principles?what

traditionality?in

order

Husserl

to reactivate

these

calls their
achieve

by bringing them back, as a "polished system of acts" (SLTS, 76/408),


to their originary intuitive givenness. Basic theorems of logic, mathematics,
and
the natural sciences are to be returned to their origins in the activities and prac

ments

tices from which they emerged, thereby being renewed by being restored to their
original animating sources. But what this questioning-back
ultimately excavates
is the structure of historical genesis itself, what Husserl calls, in the fragment
entitled "Die Frage nach dem Urspung der Geometrie als intentional-historiches
Problem"

[1939],

the "concrete,

historical

a priori": "the living movement

of

11. Edmund Husserl, Formale


und transzendentale
Logik: Versuch einer Kritik der logischen
Band XVII (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
[1927], ed. Paul Janssen, Husserliana,
1974);
Vernunft
Formal
and Transcendental
transl. Dorion Cairns
(The Hague: Martinus
1969).
Logic,
Nijhoff,
is the one who actually employs
the term Weltlogik
in his recasting of Husserl's
Ludwig Landgrebe
see Edmund Husserl,
und Urteil: Untersuchungen
der Logik
zur Genelogie
position;
Erfahrung
[1939],

ed. Ludwig Landgrebe


1972),
(Hamburg: Felix Meiner,
in a Genealogy
transl. James S. Churchill
of Logic,
Press, 1973), ? 9.
University

Investigations
Northwestern

and Judgment:
? 9; Experience
and Karl Ameriks
II:
(Evanston,

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 9
and interweaving of original
sense-sedimentation
(Sinnsedimentierung)."12

the coexistence

sense-formation

(Sinnbildung)

Phenomenology's
uncover and renew the historically embedded accomplishments
that lie hidden and neglected behind the workings of scientific

and

aim, then, is to
of consciousness

inquiry. In this
as a kind of
Fink's
of
says, Eugen
phenomenology
description
a
to the
was
return
to
return
correct:
is
"the
the
absolutely
origin
"archaeology"
original" (SLTS, 76/408).
of taking this approach are
Cavailles shows, however, that the consequences
sense, Cavailles

theory of science must ultimately be able


quite dire. Recall that a comprehensive
to account for the kind of changes and transformations that are intrinsic to scientif
ic knowledge itself; that is, itmust account for the unique immanent historicity of
science.

on Husserl's

But,

argues,

reflect the movements


there

scientific

inquiry

cannot

make

any

advance

intrinsic to itself. Change, transformation,


out
arise in and
of the life-world. All scientific knowledge can do

innovation?all
ismerely

construal,

that would be an advance

in knowledge

can

be

no genuinely

of this deeper stratum. And because,


transcendental

logic?that

as Cavailles

is, no norms

govern

itself is the ground of all norms and


(because consciousness
ing this movement
activities of conscious life are, at best, arbitrary
thus is itself beyond them)?the
and capricious. Science is then but a sheer garment draped over the arbitrary, ir
rational processes of the life-world.13 Cavailles concludes that this move is noth
ing less than an "abdication of thought" (SLTS, 77/408) because here, precisely
finds that itmust confront history and the historicality of
where phenomenology
science in particular, it blinds itself to the very uniqueness of scientific change.
is a "continual revision
The empirical record shows that scientific development
and eradication (rature)" (SLTS,
of contents by deepening (approfondissement)

und die
Husserl,
III," in his Die Krisis der europaischen
Wissenschaften
"Beilage
in die phanomenologische
Eine Einleitung
ed. Walter
Phanomenologie:
Philosophic,
Biemel. Husserliana,
Band VI (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
1976), 380; "Appendix VI: [The Origin
of Geometry],"
in his The Crisis of European
Sciences
and Transcendental
An
Phenomenology:
to Phenomenology,
Introduction
transl. David Carr (Evanston,
IL: Northwestern
Press,
University
12. Edmund

transzendentale

1970), 371.
13. Cavailles's

each side of the intentional structure. He begins with


by examining
and argues that Husserl's
of the reducibility of the
(the noematic)
conception
the delicate balance that the phenomeno
objective principles of logic to lived experience undermines
concern here if we consider the following
line
logical project had promised. We can get at Cavailles's
norms of consistency,
of reasoning:
if the rules of sense, validity, and soundness?the
inference, and
the intentional

critique works

object

founded in and thus, in some sense, are reducible to the life-world,


then formal
ultimately
the states of affairs already pres
logic could be nothing other than a merely abstract way of combining
ent in the world itself, a mere "close-fitting
garment of ideas," as Husserl referred to it. But this would
mean that logic would be a set of maximally
broad and, accordingly, maximally
It
empty tautologies.
could have no content of its own, and thus no history of development
intrinsic to itself. Cavailles
thus
truth?are

account of the content of formal logic is inhabited by a


that Husserl's
strain of precisely
the sort of naturalistic positivism
that he had tirelessly sought
argues that in tracing
turning now to the intentional act itself (the noetic), Cavailles
of consciousness,
Husserl's
logic back to the constitutive
performances
approach

concludes

deeply recalcitrant
to oppose. Second,
the rules of formal

ties the
ultimately
it is the foundation of all
inquiry to a stratum of activity that, precisely because
the productive
norms, cannot itself be bound by norms. As a result, the work of constitution,
activity
of conscious
and arbitrary. The transcendental
life, can be nothing more than contingent
logic that
norms of scientific

had sought to uncover as the foundation of formal logic thus could


that is left is the flow of temporality,
the empty form of becoming.

Husserl

not be a logic at all. All

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

KEVIN THOMPSON

10
78/409)14; but such movement
less
tion

of

flow
and

lived

sense-sedimentation."

a consciousness
78/409).

experience,

as this is simply ruled out by recourse to the seam


"the

Therein

phenomenology
appear to provide

coexistence

In Cavailles's

and

of

interweaving

succinct

formulation,

sense-forma
"if

is

there

of progress, there is not a progress of consciousness"


(SLTS,
the
failure
of
Husserlian
ultimate
lies, in Cavailles's
judgment,
as a foundation for a viable theory of science: it simply doesn't
the conceptual

of scientific progress.
But what then does Cavailles

tools needed

to articulate

offer as an alternative?

the unique historicity


In the last few lines of

the final paragraph of the essay, Cavailles provides what is an admittedly cryptic
sketch of another way of approaching the historicity of science. Its details are
murky, but we can say that he does not here propose simply to abandon the terrain
of phenomenological
inquiry. Instead, what he advances is a call for a modified
form of this methodology,
transformed precisely so as to be able to get at the pro
foundly eruptive historicity of science itself.15
approach takes its bearings from the rejection of the claim that con
life is not a detached, seamlessly
does not itself develop. Conscious
stream to which all objectivities can ultimately be traced back, as Husserl

Cavailles's
sciousness
flowing

is nothing
appeared to presume. Rather, the transcendental field of consciousness
other than the theories and investigations within which it dwells and, as such, it is
caught up in their continual movement of enrichment and overturning. The logic
of scientific development
is, then, the logic of the development of consciousness.
Cavailles writes, "The progress is material or between singular essences
[that
is, between historically distinct theories], and its engine (moteur) is the need to
surpass (depassement) each of these" (SLTS, 78/409). This, then, is the structure
of the historicity that is endemic to scientific inquiry itself. It progresses not by a
linear accumulation of knowledge, what Cavailles calls "augmentation of volume
by juxtaposition," but by a constant eruption of new insights, concepts, and grids
of intelligibility that overturn and replace what preceded them: "What comes after
is more

than what existed before,

not because

it contains

it or even because

it

revision of contents
continual
this passage
in the Introduction?"a
14. Foucault
by
quotes
an exact refer
but without
it to Cavailles,
and eradication"?attributing
specifying
deepening
III. 1976-1979,
ence (see "Introduction
Volume
Foucault" Dits et ecrits: 1954-1988.
par Michel
in The Normal
and the Pathological,
Foucault"
14-15; and "La vie:
435; "Introduction
by Michel
"Life: Experience
IV. 1980-1988,770;
Volume
et la science," Dits et ecrits: 1954-1988.
l'experience
refers to this
and Epistemology,
471). Canguilhem
ed., Aesthetics, Method,
in
for scientific development
in terms of working out a proper historical methodology
et
in Ideologic
dans l'historiographie
his "Le role de l'epistemologie
contemporaine,"
scientifique
J. Vrin, 1988), 23-24;
rationalite dans Vhistoire des sciences de la vie (Paris: Libraire Philosophique
in the
in Ideology and Rationality
in Contemporary
"The Role of Epistemology
History of Science,"
13-14.
MA:
MIT
Goldhammer
transl.
Arthur
the
Press,
1988),
(Cambridge,
History
Life Sciences,
of
of Cavailles's
examination
15. For a more comprehensive
thought that seeks to offer an alternative
and Science,"
same passage

in Faubion,

of this final paragraph to the one proposed here, see Hourya Sinaceur, Jean Cavailles:
de France,
1994), 110-122. See also Jan
(Paris: Presses Universitaires
mathematique
Sur la logique
to Jean Cavailles,
on the entire essay in his "Postface"
useful commentary
J. Vrin, 1997), 91-142, esp. 138-142. Both
et la theorie de la science (Paris: Libraire Philosophique
seek to show the roots of Cavailles's
him, Sebestik,
thinking in Spinoza and
Sinaceur, and following
interpretation

Philosophie
Sebestik's

Brunschvicg,
and actually

but, inmy judgment, fail to see the way in which what Cavailles
proposes builds
resources he found in Husserlian
furthers the methodological
phenomenology.

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

upon

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 11
prolongs it, but because it necessarily breaks out (sort) of it and carries (porte)
in its content the mark, each time singular, of its superiority. There is in itmore
it is not the same consciousness"
consciousness?and
(SLTS, 78/409). With this,
we expose

the real nerve of Cavailles's analysis and themoment at which he deci


one that takes its bearings from
sively opens a new way of doing phenomenology,
the integration of the historical and the transcendental.
He argues that since the eruptive movement of historical mutation is endemic
to the very nature of scientific knowledge,
itmust also be inherent in the transcen

dental field that grounds such knowledge, for otherwise this stratum would not be
the foundation for a form of knowing that develops in this way. It follows from
this that the transcendental must itself be alterable, changeable, and historical for
it to be the condition
Cavailles

concludes

for the possibility of scientific inquiry.


his reading by naming the new approach thatwould

seek to

remain faithful to the unique historicity of the transcendental foundations of sci


ence: "It is not a philosophy of consciousness but a philosophy of the concept that
can

provide

theory

of

science.

The

generative

is not

necessity

that of

an

activity,

but that of a dialectic"

(SLTS, 78/409).16
We find here, then, the original formation of the distinction that Foucault was
to invoke some thirty years later. At its center was the attempt to work out a
an insistence
theory of the historicity of knowledge,
to science we must think the integration of transcendentality

transcendental

that to do

justice

and histo

ricity. Cavailles therefore sets forth the basic outline of such a program, what I
of the concept. At the center of its agenda is the
propose to call a phenomenology
uncovering of a conception of the transcendental that is divorced from its roots in
consciousness,

truly

transcendental

anonymous

field.

The program for such an approach in Cavailles


is clear. A phenomenology
of
the concept must forsake allegiance to the primordiality of consciousness.
That
which had been the last court of appeal for Husserl must now itself be seen as
caught up in the movement of historicity. All a priori structures must necessar
ily be conceived as historically mutable and ever-changing forms. In taking this
approach, the genuine historicity of science can be understood and a true logic
can be found. But in leaving the sphere of
of the constitution of consciousness
consciousness

behind

as

the ultimate

ground

of

explanation,

of

phenomenology

the concept does not thereby abandon the transcendental field itself. The promise
of Husserlian phenomenology
proves to lie, then, for Cavailles, not in the concept
of

intentionality

conceived

as

tranquil

stream,

but

in a different

form

of

ar

chaeology: in the ability of phenomenology


domain of science to expose the movement

to break open the seemingly timeless


of transcendental historicity at work
within it. Cavailles thus points the way to carrying out a truly immanent critical
one that carves out a way of doing
appropriation of Husserlian phenomenology,
16. I leave aside here the vexing
that it refers

clear from the context

it is
question of exactly what is meant by a dialectic. However,
to a movement
of surpassing that is immanent within the devel
In this sense, it is a dialectic of noemata, rather than a dialectical

opment of scientific
theory itself.
relation between consciousness
and its object. For an excellent examination
of this originary dialectic,
as itwas taken up in the thought of Derrida, see Leonard Lawlor, Derrida and Husserl:
The
especially
Basic Problem of Phenomenology
Indiana University
Press, 2002), Part Two.
(Bloomington:

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

KEVIN THOMPSON

12

a new form of eidetic description:


the

of

"dialectic"

strange

a phenomenology

of the ruptural development,

the concept.

But admittedly Cavailles


leaves us with only a provocative and incomplete
sketch. We are left wanting to see what conceptual tools and theoretical strategies
are really required to employ this new form of inquiry. It was this question that
stood as the underlying impetus that led Canguilhem and Foucault, among others,
to seek in Cavailles a new way of doing the history of science. Furthermore, itwas
from this stream that Foucault

retrieved the methodological


concepts of archaeol
a
the
their
from
Husserlian
and put them to
and
historical
framework
ogy
priori
we
an
new
now take Foucault at
work in
way. I propose, then, that
importantly
his word and consider his and Canguilhem's works as contributions and innova
tions within
a common

this new methodological


paradigm, as interconnected
of the concept.
the
tributary,
phenomenology

streams fed by

Ill
and Foucault ought to be
If my argument thus far is tenable?that Canguilhem
it is
seen as working under the rubric of a phenomenology
of the concept?then
equally important to recognize that they pursue this project in significantly differ
ent ways. To begin to get at what separates them, and thereby shed light on both,
we can say that whereas Canguilhem tracked the rules immanent within scientific
discourse that govern the production of veridical statements, Foucault sought to
unearth the conditions
discourses

themselves.

that regulate the formation and transformation of scientific


Put rather simply, and to employ Foucault's own means of

their approaches, while Canguilhem


(dire vrai)," Foucault looked for the principles
the true (dans le vm*)."17

contrasting

was concerned with "true saying


it is to be "in

that determine what

rather

the proper object of the history of science is concepts


For Canguilhem,
is epistemological
its true methodology
than theories, and, accordingly,
than

descriptive.18

concept,

as

uses

Canguilhem

the

is not,

term,

as we

rather
so often

assume, simply a term as it is defined or interpreted within a specific theoretical


that
or disciplinary framework. Rather, it is the initial account of a phenomenon
enables scientists to pose the question of how to explain it. On this rendering, a
concept is structurally polyvalent. The same concept can play a multitude of dif
ferent roles in different
17. For

a useful

account

theories and yet still retain its identity as a specific con


of

this distinction,
to Foucault,"

From

see Arnold
in his

Canguilhem
and the Formation
(Cambridge,
of Concepts
Epistemology
Critical Project, 79-85.
192-206; and Han, Foucault's
statement of method,
18. See Canguilhem's
"L'objet de
5th rev. ed. [1968]
et de philosophie
des sciences,
d'histoire

Archeology:

Davidson,

The

Emergence
MA: Harvard
l'histoire

des

(Paris: Vrin,

and
"On Epistemology
Historical

of Sexuality:
University
sciences,"
1983), 9-23;

Press,

2001),

in his Etudes
cf. "Le role

et rationalite
in Ideologic
contemporaine,"
scientifique
l'historiographie
in Contemporary
sciences de la vie, 11-29; "The Role of Epistemology
History
1-23. For useful discus
in the History
in Ideology and Rationality
of Science,"
of the Life Sciences,
historical method,
sions of Canguilhem's
important role,
though they fail to recognize Cavailles's
de

l'epistemologie
dans l'histoire des

dans

see Gary Gutting, Michel Foucault's


of Scientific Reason
Archaeology
Le Blanc, Canguilhem
Press, 1989), 32-52; and Guillaume
University
de France, 1998).
Universitaires

(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge


et les normes (Paris: Presses

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 13
cept. The history of science is thus to be written as a history of concepts, and this
is just what Canguilhem's
studies of health, illness, bodily reflex, and even the
concept of life itself, are. The historian's task, however, is not simply to record the
in the usages of concepts, but instead to work out what might be called
the intrinsic grammar of the scientific theories in which these concepts operate.
thus holds that a
Reversing Gaston Bachelard's important dictum, Canguilhem
historian of science must be a unique kind of epistemologist. Historians of science
variations

must find the structure of the theoretical models

that have prevailed in history. To


do this they must isolate the rules internal to scientific discourse that set down the
conditions for the coherence, the regularity, of a body of scientific knowledge.

These

rules govern the construction of concepts, their fields of application, and


their range of usages. Borrowing from Husserl, we can say that what historians
must uncover is the material a priori for specific sciences. To speak truthfully in
science, then, means to speak within the parameters established by the rules that
are endemic

to a specific scientific discourse. These internal systems are the a


for producing veridical scientific statements. It is in this sense
conditions
priori
that Canguilhem's
historical epistemology
seeks to identify the division of truth
and falsity specific to each body of knowledge; and it is by virtue of this method
that, in turn, it is able it tomark the transformations in these rules. The historical
thus moves beyond both the court of transcendental consciousness
epistemologist
a priori) and the brute empiricality of the chronicler of dates
non-historical
(the
and biographies (empirical history) to grasp the eidetic structures of the deeper
logic of the historicity that is inherent in scientific development: "the time of the
advent of scientific truth, the time of verification, has a liquidity or viscosity that
for different disciplines
in the same periods of general history."19 In
this way, historical epistemology
seeks to take up and extend the project of a phe
the
of
concept.
nomenology
is different

But if true speaking (dire vrai) means


standards internal to scientific discourse,

to speak in accordance with the a priori


then what does being in the true (dans le

vrai) mean? In other words, how does Foucault take up the project of a phenom
enology of the concept?
Foucault argues that what Canguilhem's
approach can do, and what it does
out
is
mark
the
extraordinarily well,
changes in the truth conditions that are im
manent within
it cannot

do,

It creates a record of epistemic

scientific disciplines.
is account

however,

for

these

transformations

themselves.

breaks. What
That

is to

shows what rules govern truthful statements within


say, historical epistemology
of
domains
scientific
specific
inquiry, but it cannot get at the coherence and trans
of
these
formability
disciplines. To do that, eidetic description would have to have
recourse to the deeper stratum of the norms that define the fields of
knowledge
themselves. Canguilhem's
approach thus remains, for Foucault, at the level of
and it thus cannot explain the regularities and shifts?the
connaissance,
rarity,
are governed by the principles
exteriority, and accumulation of disciplines?that
of savoir. It follows that if a phenomenology
of the concept is to get at the basis of
scientific progress,
19. Canguilhem,
des sciences,
19.

and not just mark

"L'objet

de

l'histoire

des

its shifts, itmust go beyond historical


sciences,"

in his Etudes

d'histoire

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

epis

et de philosophic

14

KEVIN THOMPSON

temology's exploration of the internal conditions for the possibility of scientific


we have called, following Husserl, the material a prioris of spe
claims?what
cific disciplines?and
unearth the fields by which and in which such knowledge
is able to arise, the historical a prioris that regulate the constitution of disciplines
as discursive

formations.

In a word,

then, one must move

from epistemology

to

archaeology.

As we have seen, for Cavailles,


the historical a priori and archaeology desig
nated phenomenology's
fundamental object and its ultimate methodology.
The
latter was its excavation and renewal of a science's buried layers of intentional
sense-history, while the former was the ultimate structure of temporality that gov
erns the process of sense formation and sedimentation that is history itself. On
Cavailles's
reading, as we can now see, the failure of this project lay in its pre
sumption that these layers and such a structure as this were tied to the unchanging
if the project of a phenomenology
life. Consequently,
of the
is to see all intentional structures as part and parcel of the historically
forms of science, then Canguilhem's
historical epistemology
certainly

flow of conscious
concept
mutable

provides access to the intentionality embedded within the eruptive flow of scien
tific change. But, as we have noted, his approach has also left open the question
of the a priori structures that govern the field within which science itself operates,
the domain of savoir, the historical a priori, the stratum of the archaeological.
Foucault's method
phenomenology,

thus does not mark a simple return to the project of Husserlian


but rather carries out a decisive retrieval of its central method

ological concepts, placing them in service to a truly comprehensive phenomenol


ogy of the concept.20
Our review of the history of this line of development
lays before us, then, two
rather simple questions that take us to the very heart of Foucault's philosophical
project: (1) what is a historical a priori?, and (2) what is archaeology? My conten
tion is that these questions must be answered together.
For Husserl, the historical a priori is the non-historical, unchanging transcen
structure of history itself: "the living movement
(Sinnbildung)
interweaving of original sense-production

dental

of the coexistence

and

and sense-sedimentation

But to conceive of the nature of scientific change in this


(Sinnsedimentierung)."
as
Cavailles
way is,
argued, just to deny it its unique form of development. Cavail
les therefore pointed to the necessity of identifying the specific a priori structures
at work in science and tracing out the eruptive historicity of these conditions, the
dialectic of the concept. Canguilhem's work fleshed out this project through care
ful historical investigations of the employments of specific scientific concepts. In
20.

In an exchange with George


of the concept of
Steiner, Foucault noted that his employment
in Criticism,"
in metaphysics
derived from Kant's work on progress
("Monstrosities
traces this reference
to Kant's
entitled
1793 manuscript
1 [Fall 1971], 60). Bernauer

archaeology
Diacritics

Zeiten
seit Leibnitzens
und Wolfs
die die Metaphysik
Fortschritte,
as the investigation
Archaologie"
gemacht hat?" where he defines "philosophische
Foucault's
renders a certain form of thought necessary
of that which
(James W. Bernauer, Michel
NJ: Humanities
Force of Flight: Toward an Ethics for Thought
Press, 1990],
[Atlantic Highlands,
202, n. 113). I believe that the intellectual
lineage that I have sought to reconstruct here supports the
"Welches

sind die wirklichen

in Deutschlands

claim

that Foucault's

transcendental

actual usage

of the method

is derived more

from phenomenology

idealism.

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

than from

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 15

discourse,

as a result,

and,

the move

made

doing so, Canguilhem

was

to work within
to uncover

able

the interiority of scientific

the various

forms

of

intentional

ity embedded in concrete scientific disciplines. But what this approach fails to be
able to do, precisely because it remains within the internal parameters of its ob
ject, is account for the changing nature of scientific knowledge as a whole. It can
not set out the shifting sets of rules under which some form of knowledge counts
as scientific in one epoch or another. A phenomenology
of the concept demands,
then, that transcendentality and historicity be thought together; this is precisely
retrieval of the historical a priori seeks to achieve.
In the dense pivotal chapter of Uarcheologie
du savoir [1969] entitled "L'a
to examine scientific discours
et
that
Foucault
1'archive,"
argues
priori historique
es as discursive formations is to take them as they stand dispersed in the field
within which they may be said to communicate or fail to communicate with one
what Foucault's

another, the space of what Foucault calls their "positivity."21 Foucault detects here
a stratum that lies between the material interiority of science, the domain of the
statement (Uenonce), within which Canguilhem worked, and the wholly formal
exteriority of timeless structures that were Husserl's ultimate concern. It is the
space defined by the principles that govern the formation of (1) the delimitation
and description of a specific phenomenon (objects), (2) the determinate place and
an authority speaks (subject-positions),
(3) the definition of the
arrangements and complexes of acceptable statements (concepts), and finally (4)
the circumscription of compatible and incompatible theories and themes (strate
status from which

gies). These rules thus set out the "field in which itwould be possible to deploy
formal identities, thematic continuities,
translations of concepts, and polemical
interchanges" (AS, 167/127). These rules are then the conditions for the reality of
that

discourses

rules

These

are, we
are

could

say,

necessarily,

to the

extrinsic
a

at once,

scientific
and

priori

theories

historical.

They

themselves.
are

a priori

because they set down the conditions for being in the true. That is to say, they
govern not speaking in general, but what has actually been said. They define the
parameters of truth and falsity that are operative within a specific epoch and mark
a statement

the

threshold

that

for

evidential

confirmation

emergence

of

statements,

must

cross

the

law

of

their

form of their mode of being, the principles


form,

and

disappear"

(AS,

167/127).

These

to be

in order

or disconfirmation.

They

are,

then,

coexistence

with

according

to which

rules

as a candidate

acceptable

are normative

the

"conditions
the

others,

of

specific

they subsist, trans


and,

as

such,

bear

prescriptive efficacy. But they do so not in the sense of absolute standards whose
binding force derives from their being principles under which one can freely act,
nor do they possess some form of physical causal determinacy. Rather, these rules
function at the level of the categorial. Archaeological
research carries out a form
of transcendental

deduction:

sive formation by showing,

it establishes

the legitimacy of the rules of discur


a
form of imaginative variation, that, within
through

21. Michel
du savoir (Paris: Gallimard,
Foucault, L'archeologie
1969), 166; The Archaeology
on Language,
& The Discourse
transl. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon
of Knowledge
in the text as "AS" followed by
Books,
1972), 126. All further references to this work are designated
the appropriate page reference to the French edition and then to the English translation. Where
neces
the translation.
sary, I have modified

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

KEVIN THOMPSON

16

a specified historical epoch, a statement can enter the domain of acceptability


only insofar as it accords with these conditions not just as a matter of factual
but by right (quid juris). Just as in all transcendental
takes
the empirical fact of its object as a given and seeks
approaches, archaeology
formations exist;
the conditions under which such a fact is possible. Discursive

happenstance

(quidfacti),

there are complexes of existent interrelated statements whose integrity demands


that they be treated as unique events; they are, tomake use of Foucault's formula
tion for this, temporally dispersed. Archaeology
seeks, recursively, the categorial
structures, the principles, by virtue of which such occurrences as these are pos
sible, and this means not the empirical scheme that some collection of claims must
satisfy in order to be counted as a science, but rather the eidetic structure that a
formation must possess
as categorial conditions

in order to be the coherent, stable body that it is. It is thus


that the rules of discursive formation are a priori.

But inasmuch as these rules are categorial, the conditions for being in the true
is not only the sys
are, at the same time, historical: "the a priori of positivities
tem of a temporal dispersion; it is itself a transformable complex (un ensemble
transformable)" (AS, 168/127). The rules for the formation of objects, subjects,
and

concepts,

are

strategies

not

timeless

forms,

schemes,

or

transcendentals,

ideal or real. Rather, it is precisely as categorial that


are
formations change is signaled by the empirical,
mutable.
discursive
That
they
historical shifts in the ways inwhich these unities are forged. But if the empirical
these be considered

whether

changes, then the rules that govern the constitu


that
also shift because the categorial is a dimension
does not stand outside of the discourses that it regulates. It is a plane immanent
within discourse itself whose groups of rules are, as Foucault says, "caught up
nature of discursive

formations

tion of such bodies must

in (engagees dans) the very things that they connect" (AS, 168/127). Thus, the
categorial is mutable precisely because it is immanent in that which it governs.
Archaeology's

deduction

transcendental

carries out historical-eidetic

is also,

then,

a historical

deduction:

it

in order to lay bare the economies that


descriptions
of statements. When archaeology succeeds in its work

regulate the acceptability


of excavating the stratum of positivity, it has thus unearthed the epochal system
that governs not only what is say able (statements: event), but how what is said
can

be

combined,

that

is, put

to use,

and

this

is what

Foucault

calls

the

"archive"

(AS, 169/128), the epochal economy of order.


is then a form of eidetic description that seeks to remain faithful
Archaeology
It works not by uncovering the sense
to the ruptural historicity of knowledge.
which it is concerned, but by ex
with
the
sciences
the
of
traditionality,
history,
cavating the empirical surface of words and things so as to lay bare the stratum
of rules, the layer of savoir, that governs the fields within which scientific dis
courses operate. In doing this it also disembeds these principles and, in doing so,
it opens up the immanent transcendental historicity that is at work in the develop
ment of knowledge
itself. To be sure, it does not seek to offer an explanation for
why these shifts occur. (To do that would be to seek the non-historical condition
of history itself. As we have seen, this is precisely how Husserl conceived of the
historical a priori, and Foucault rejects this as a purely formal a priori because, in
the end, all it can do is impose an extrinsic unity on the eruptive movement of his

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

HISTORICITYAND TRANSCENDENTALITY 17
takes up the project
tory.) Thus, Foucault, building on the work of Canguilhem,
first announced in Cavailles's
critical appropriation of Husserlian phenomenol
ogy, and works out a method that takes fidelity to the matters themselves in all
their density and fractural dispersion as its fundamental obligation. Archaeology
is thereby a phenomenology
of the concept?it
"describes discourses as practices
in
the
of
the
element
archive"
this means that, at
(AS, 173/131) ?and
specified
its core, it thinks transcendentality
positivity of knowledge.

and historicity

together as the stratum of the

IV
Iwant

to conclude by briefly considering two questions that arise out of attempts


such as I have undertaken here to reconstruct some of the intellectual tradition

within which Foucault worked.


The first question is one that Foucault himself poses: if the historical a priori
is the reigning set of conditions under which we continually
labor, how is it
an
to
account
as
it?
render
is
to
of
Foucault
clear
the
possible
methodological
presupposition
under

under which
must

description

archaeological

at once

be

historically

labors. The

investigation
close

to us,

but

no

longer

archive
our

own.

That is to say, such research can take place only with the presumption of a kind
of closure, that the epoch to be examined has "just ceased to be ours (viennent de
cesser justement d'etre les notre)" (AS, 172/130). Breaking open the historical
eidetic structures that have made us what we are thus operates in a "gap/deviation
it be the beginnings of our detachment from
(Vecart)" (AS, 172/130). Whether
the identification of disease with the body, as inNaissance de la clinique (1962,
rev. ed., 1972), or the withering away of man as the principle of
knowledge, as
in Les mots el les choses (1966), archaeology necessarily speaks from and out
of the "border of time," what Foucault calls the "outside (dehors)" of our own
language (AS, 172/130).
The second question is one that I earlier set aside: what was it about
that Cavailles
initiated
specific type of phenomenological
investigation
led
to
Foucault
not
with
the
of
ultimately
grapple
just
historicity
knowledge
with its relationship to power and subjectivity? Now, of course, even before
to describe

began
tions

between

his work

discursive

and

as genealogical
non-discursive

son (1961, rev. ed., 1972) and Naissance


knowledge

is always

invested

in centers,

Foucault was
practices.

interested

Consider

techniques,

procedures

but
he

in the rela
et derai

Folie

de la clinique. He was convinced


and

the
that

of

that

power.

But why would a phenomenology


of the concept of itself lead one to a concern
with these investments? Husserl and, following him, Cavailles, never took sci
ence as a disinterested pursuit of knowledge.
It was and is at the very center
of theWestern

project of rationality to shape our world so as to be able to live


within
it.
But whereas Husserl sought the cause of the crisis that afflicted
freely
in
the twentieth century in this project's going awry?hence,
the call
humanity
to renew the original animating intentions of the sciences?a
of
phenomenology
the concept shows that the problem lies not in falling away from some
teleologi
cal progression endemic to history, but rather in the specific epochal constella

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

18

KEVIN THOMPSON

as well as the mechanisms


tions, the stamps of savoir, that govern knowledge
of subjugation with which structures of reason become intertwined. It was when
clarity about this issue that he was able to see that
must
not only seek out the historical a priori by which
archaeological
inquiry
discursive formations arise, but the transcendental historical rules that regulate
the entwinement of power, knowledge, and subjectivation. He thus moved from

Foucault

gained

sufficient

describing discursive practices as they are specified in the element of the archive,
to excavating the dispositif that governs discourse and power. There is perhaps
no better example of this to be found in Foucault's corpus than in Parts Two
and Three of La volonte de savoir (1976) where the "discursive orthopedics" of
telling everything [discourse] are shown to be bound up with tactics that solidify
perversion in the body [power]; both of these, in turn, are shown to operate under
the rules of a specific dispositif, a determinate
scientia sexualis (subjectivation).

"will to knowledge

(savoir)"'. the

I have argued that the coherence of Foucault's philosophical project lies in its
to unearth the stratum of experience
of a historical methodology
development
that governs the thought and practice of the epochs that have shaped the present
age. I have shown that this required him to work out a way of passage between
the absolute purism of the transcendental and the mundane contingency of the
historical. But this presented us with a rather stark choice. It seemed that the
integrity of the transcendental had to be bought at the price of excluding the im
purity of becoming or it would be condemned to be the empirical in but another
of the
guise. Setting Foucault's work within the lineage of a phenomenology
concept has, however, demonstrated that this dilemma is rooted in an important
misreading of Foucault's project. Foucault's research is dedicated to unearthing
conditions in and through which we have come to
the transcendental-historical
be what we are. It therefore stands squarely within the broader tradition of tran
It seeks to isolate the strictures that govern knowledge
scendental philosophy.
and

practice,

the work

of

critique,

so

that we

can

clearly

see where

and

how

we

might begin to constitute ourselves otherwise, the task of enlightenment. Archae


ology is thus the method for a genuine "art of voluntary inservitude, of reflective
indocility."22

DePaul

University

22. Michel
frangaise

Foucault,

de philosophic

"Qu'est-ce que la critique? (Critique


39; "What is Critique," The Politics

et Aufklarung),"
of Truth, 32.

Bulletin

This content downloaded from 132.208.170.13 on Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:33:00 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

de la societe