Reading 14 – Foucault

The historical a priori of language has allowed the development of categorization in realms such as biology, and yet language imbues certain limitations on understanding and possibilities of that realm which it affects. Foucault’s The Order of Things discusses how language has impacted not only biology but a general understanding of human ecology. Foucault uses biology as a lens to outline the use of language as a system for organization. In defining this system, Foucault writes, “It concerns a fundamental arrangement of knowledge, which orders the knowledge of beings so as to make it possible to represent them in a system of names.” This “fundamental arrangement of knowledge” is true of many disciplines as well as general human comprehension. We arrange things in many different ways according to a preexisting system of standards learned through our societal culture. These learned systems limit what we believe to be true in our everyday perception of being. Foucault explains this as a product of the a priori: “This a priori is what, in a given period, delimits in the totality of experience a field of knowledge, defines the mode of living of the objects that appear in that field, provides man’s everyday perception with theoretical powers, and defines the conditions in which he can sustain a discourse about things that is recognized to be true.” Because man can only function within those boundaries, those which are existing and true, language fails to breach the beyond and help to define new types. We tend to only rely on that which has come before. Anything new that arises must always be related back to something that we understand, mere resemblances of a preexisting form.


About jasonsedar

My final year of architecture school at the University of Calgary!
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