Sunday, December 11

Michel Foucault quotes Jorge Luis Borges in famous preface

This is the preface of "The Order of Things" by Michel Foucault and I remember quite clearly the effects of reading it for the first time:
"This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought - our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that." (emphasis added)
I was also impressed by the famous first chapter where Foucault analyzes Diego Velazques's "Las Meninas" to explain what he understand by "episteme".
A great philosopher quoting a great writer and analyzing a great painter is a good way to start the week.


Missy said...

Wow.. that's way too much for my mind to take in lol ...

Ana said...

I'll do a post and show you how easy it is.