Philosophical Genealogy Volume I: An Epistemological Reconstruction of Nietzsche and Foucault's Genealogical Method by Brian Lightbody (American University Studies Series V: v 208, Philosophy: Peter Lang)
Philosophical Genealogy Volume II: An Epistemological Reconstruction of Nietzsche and Foucault's Genealogical Method by Brian Lightbody(American University Studies Series V: v 209, Philosophy: Peter Lang)
Philosophical Genealogy Volume I: An Epistemological Reconstruction of Nietzsche and Foucault's Genealogical Method is a rigorous examination of the philosophical investigatory practice known as "genealogy." This critique of the philosophical tradition leads to the creation of new values. Both Nietzsche and Foucault extolled these critical and emancipatory virtues of genealogy.
Volume I examines the principal ontological and epistemological problems with Nietzsche and Foucault's respective uses of the genealogical method. It elucidates the differences between genealogy and other forms of historical inquiry before turning to explicate, in great detail, the three axes of genealogical inquiry: the power axis, the truth axis and the ethical axis. Volume I explains the very important role the body plays in a genealogical investigation before examining several of the problems with the doctrine of perspectivism—a central component to a genealogical inquiry.
Philosophical Genealogy Volume I provides a thorough and incisive analysis of essay two of On the Genealogy of Morals, as well as the "the means: f correct training" section in Discipline and Punish, while reaffirming the problems that have been examined in previous chapters and pointing toward a solution that will be further explicated in Philosophical Genealogy Volume II
Philosophical genealogy is a distinct method of historical and philosophical inquiry that was developed by the nineteenth-century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, and subsequently adopted and extended by the twentieth-century philosopher, Michel Foucault. In brief, genealogies critically examine the historical origin of philosophical concepts, ideas and practices. They challenge the value of traditional methods of philosophical inquiry along with the results that these inquiries produce.
Philosophical Genealogy Volume I: An Epistemological Reconstruction of the Genealogical Method explored the three axes of the genealogical method: power, truth and the ethical. In addition, various ontological and epistemic problems pertaining to each of these axes were examined. In Philosophical Genealogy Volume II: An Epistemological Reconstruction of the Genealogical Method, these problems are now resolved. Volume II establishes what requisite ontological underpinnings are required in order to provide a successful, epistemic reconstruction of the genealogical method. Problems regarding the nature of the body, the relation between power and resistance as well as the justification of Nietzschean perspectivism, are now all clearly answered. It is shown that genealogy is a profound, fecund and, most importantly, coherent method of philosophical and historical investigation which may produce many new discoveries in the fields of ethics and moral inquiry provided it is correctly employed.
Brian Lightbody is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. He received his Ph.D. from The Dominican University College in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is a past recipient of the Governor General's Gold Medal for academic excellence. Lightbody has published widely on Nietzsche, Foucault, Marcuse, and epistemology and he is the author of Philosophical Genealogy Volume I (2010) and the co-editor (with Neal DeRoo) of The Logic of Incarnation (2008).
Philosophical genealogy investigates the historical origin of values. More perspicaciously put philosophical genealogy studies why certain values have come to have value. This does not mean that genealogy is a sub-species of "value theory." Though value theory and ethics are often regarded as closely synonymous if not co-extensive terms by many philosophers, it should be made clear at the outset that genealogy's investigation into the value of values is not limited merely to the ethical realm. There are metaphysical and epistemological values too. The value of these studies must also be evaluated. Indeed even the most primary philosophical concept, namely truth, is a value and has value according to the genealogist.
Nietzsche was one of the first philosophers to show the complex and intimate relationship between truth and values. As Nietzsche writes in this regard in the very first section of Beyond Good Evil: "Suppose we want truth: why not rather untruth? and uncertainty? even ignorance?" If this question is a sensible one and it seems prima facie to be, then an investigation concerning the value of truth itself seems necessitated.
But there lies the problem: the investigation into the value of truth will be contingent on the concept of truth itself. After all, the very notion of an investigation seems to entail, conceptually speaking, an accurate, justified, indeed, truthful analysis of the area or object being investigated. However, if genealogy is critical of the value of truth then how, one might query, does an investigation of this suspect valuation begin? It is this very question which is the focus of the present book.
In Philosophical Genealogy Volume One, I investigate the epistemic, ontological and ethical problems associated with philosophical genealogy. I begin by explaining the differences between philosophical genealogy and more traditional
methods of historical and philosophical investigation. In the next section,
I explain, in more positive terms, the three aspects to any genealogical investigation, namely, the truth, power and ethical axes. After demonstrating some of the philosophical problems each of these aspects lead to, I explain the role the body plays in a genealogical investigation.
In chapter two, I examine the ontological status of the body in a genealogical inquiry. There seem to be two principal interpretations in this regard: the biological reductionist view and the social constructionist interpretation.
I demonstrate that each. of these positions is fraught with problems both epistemically, ontologically and ethically.
In chapter three I examine the problem of `perspectivism'. In the Nietzschean secondary literature, perspectivism is the epistemic doctrine that holds that statements are only perspectivally true; there can be no statements which are true absolutely. It is a position which is both epistemically and ethically fruitful, but one which is also logically problematic. However, since it is one of the defining features of a genealogical method of investigation, it therefore deserves close and careful scrutiny. The genealogist is a perspectivist in the sense that he or she does not examine the emergence of historical events from an objective "view from nowhere." 2 Such a position is impossible: there must always be a relationship between the epistemic agent and the object claimed to be known. A non-relationship, relationship between subject and object is nonsensical. But the genealogist goes beyond this truism to suggest that our perspectives actively inform the investigation one is undertaking. I examine and critique some of the most important positions in the secondary literature which try to make sense of this claim.
Fourth and finally I provide a very close analysis of essay two of On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche as well as the section on 'the means of correct training' from Discipline and Punishment by Michel Foucault. My intent for providing these careful readings is to extract the central components of the genealogical method put into practice by two exemplary genealogies and genealogists. In volume two, I articulate a schematic reconstruction of these practices that is both in keeping with the genealogical spirit as well as one that is epistemically coherent and ontologically sound.
See Thomas Nagel's brilliant problematizing of both a purely, objective and, purely, subjective epistemic position in his classic The View from Nowhere, (Oxford University Press, 1986).
Genealogy studies values by examining the historical origin of values. As the term is used today, it refers to the method of historical and philosophical investigation developed by Friedrich Nietzsche and later adopted and modified in the 20th century by Michel Foucault.' As the name itself implies, genealogy is a distinct method of practicing philosophy that entails examining the historical origins of present day philosophical concepts, ideas and discourses along with the institutions that sprang from them. By tracing the "lines of descent" of a present interpretation to an earlier one, philosophical genealogists effectively demonstrate the long sign-chain of interpretations that were responsible for producing the current idea.' In this way the genealogist demonstrates the "origin" or perhaps more precisely put the 'soil' from which our contemporary concepts, laws and social norms developed and even in what direction such concepts may be headed.
However, genealogy is so much more than simply a method for tracing the origin of ideas and institutions. Indeed, if either Nietzsche or Foucault were solely concerned in demonstrating how one idea or institution evolved from an earlier one then neither philosopher would be any different from the
1 By the far the clearest statement of Nietzsche's tremendous influence on Foucault can be found in Foucault's last interview entitled the "Return of Morality." Foucault says: "I can only respond by saying that I am simply Nietzschean, and I try to see, on a number of different points, and to the extent that it is possible, with the aid of Nietzsche's texts—but also with anti-Nietzschean theses (which are nevertheless Nietzschean!)—what can be done in this or that domain." See Michel Foucault, Michel
Foucault, Politics, Philosophy, Culture, Interviews and other Writings, 1977-1984, trans. Alan Sheridan and others, (London: Routledge, 1988.) 250-251.
2 Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann with an introduction by Peter Gay, (New York: Random House, 2000) GM III: 12,489.
historian. Genealogical investigations, however, delve deeper into the very wellsprings of history than more traditional historical methods. While most historians who would propose to study the history of law or legal institutions would begin by tracing current legal codes to earlier laws, they stop short, according to the genealogist, from discovering the true soil from where these laws sprang. Likewise, those who trace our current academic discourses to older disciplines do not go far enough; they curtail their investigation prematurely. For underneath our so called 'just' or 'fair' legal codes or 'rational' thinking lies the soil from which these ideas had their source, namely, power. All of our contemporary concepts, ideas, institutions, discourses and values were born through the confluence, through the agon (struggle), of competing modes and perspectives of power. Genealogy unmasks the true origin of our current ideas and discourses as nothing more and nothing less than the ideas and institutions that were victorious over their respective rivals. In sum, 'values,' whether legal, moral or even rational, can never be valued in and for themselves. Values always presuppose an evaluation. And all things, according to the genealogist, are evaluated in terms of power. Genealogy, therefore, is the diagnostic study of the historical manifestations of power.
But just as there is a diagnostic aspect to genealogy there is also a curative aspect. Foucault and Nietzsche stressed that it is only by understanding how such nodes of power were formed, as well as how these said nodes were related to each other, that we may emancipate ourselves from these networks. To this end, Nietzsche called genealogy the path to gay science.'
Foucault also believed genealogy to be a "curative science." A successful genealogy is capable of challenging and demolishing our traditional beliefs which are often confining, self-undermining and, perhaps most importantly, false.4 Foucault's genealogical investigations enable us to establish new beliefs and attitudes in order to live more creatively, joyfully and indeed, experimentally than before. In short, the genealogical method as understood by both philosophers, is a technique and personal 'practice' of investigating traditional
See Nietzsche's, On the Genealogy of Morals in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, preface, sec. 7, 457: "For cheerfulness--or in my own language gay science—is a reward: the reward of a long, brave, industrious, and subterranean seriousness, of which to be sure not everyone is capable."
4 Michel Foucault, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History," in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault, Edited with an introduction by Donald F. Bouchard, (Cornell University Press: 1977), 156.
philosophical conundrums and aporias in order to offer a way out or exit from our all too common disenchantment with modern society. In effect, genealogy provides the modern human being with an opportunity to develop a new ethics of action, belief, thought and desire.
However, I contend that contemporary scholars and interpreters of both thinkers have overly concerned themselves with this last aspect of genealogy, namely, the ethical or curative, while neglecting the equally important methodological or diagnostic aspects of genealogical inquiry. For example, while Todd May in his book Between Genealogy and Epistemology lucidly explains the great emancipatory power of genealogical inquiry, May does little to extrapolate on the methodological aspects or procedural steps required in order to go about "doing" genealogy. Unfortunately, the same is true of a number of books and articles in the secondary literature.' If genealogy is indeed an important and subversive practice capable of teaching us to live a more joyful and wise existence, then surely our first task is to understand what precisely genealogy is. This entails, minimally, that we ask and answer the following questions as best we can: 'What does genealogy study?'; 'How does a genealogical inquiry differ from other historical and philosophical modes of investigation?'; 'Why do Nietzsche and Foucault's genealogies proceed in the manner they do?'; 'Is there a schema for doing genealogies?'; 'What exactly is the relationship between the methodological aspects of genealogy and the curative aspects?'; Finally, 'Is it possible to improve on Nietzsche and Foucault's genealogical techniques?'
5 For a sample list of scholars who provide a detailed
explanation in terms of the sub-
versive or therapeutic value of genealogy, see Alexander Nehamas' "The Genealogy
of Genealogy: Interpretation in Nietzsche's Second Untimely Meditations and in On the Genealogy of Morals" in Nietzsche, Genealogy Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. Ed. Richard Schacht (Berkeley California: University of California Press, 1994), 269-284. See also Kathleen Marie Higgins' "On the Genealogy of Morals—Nietzsche's Gift" also in Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality, 49-63. Eric Blondel does attempt to provide a more schematic and structural methodology for genealogical inquiry but his work still remains largely incomplete and vague. See his Nietzsche: The Body and Culture, Philosophy as a Philological Genealogy trans. by Sean Hand, (Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press, 1991). Finally, James Bernhauer in his Michel Foucault's Force of Flight: Towards and Ethics of Thought (New Jersey: Humanities Press, International, 1990) puts forth perhaps the strongest and most detailed argument to support the great' transformative powers of genealogy.
Unfortunately, no article or monograph that I am aware of, answers any, let alone, all of these questions in the detail and clarity required.6
A second theme of this book is to tackle some of the epistemic problems scholars have leveled against genealogy in the secondary literature. Jurgen Habermas, Paul Bove, Axel Honneth, and Alasdair Maclntyre to name but a few, argue that genealogy cannot make any positive claims (whether methodological, epistemological, ethical or otherwise), because it equates all values with power and, therefore, cannot be any more valid nor any less valid than any other method of historical and/or philosophical investigation.' In sum, since genealogy argues that all concepts, ideas and institutions are historical and contingent constructions of power, then this same analysis must apply, ceteris paribus, to the genealogical method itself. Genealogies and even the
6 A number of books and articles have been published on the topic of genealogy very recently. And although many of these do address some of the questions raised above, no single work addresses all of them. Most certainly no single work provides a satisfactory answer to any one of these questions in my view. Below is a sample list: Rudi Visker, Michel Foucault: Genealogy as Critique, trans. Chris Turner, (London: Verso, 1995).; Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy, (Princeton University Press, 2002); Tyler Krupp, "Genealogy as Critique." Journal of the Philosophy of History 2 (3) 315-337,2008 and Mark Bevir's "What is Genealogy?", Journal of the Philosophy of History 2 (3) 263-275,2008.
Jurgen Habermas quite explicitly makes this very claim in his Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Fredrick Lawrence, (Cambridge Mass: MIT Press, 1985), 281. Paul Bove, in a similar vein, argues the very same point by claiming that genealogy cannot remain critical of power/knowledge once genealogy becomes part of the academic world. Genealogy would therefore become part and parcel of the current dispositif. See Bove's article: "The End of Humanism: Michel Foucault and the Power of Disciplines" (1980) in Michel Foucault: Critical Assessments, Ed. Barry Smart, Vol. II (New York: Routledge, 1994) 313-328 (hereafter MCFA). Daniel Conway argues that genealogy can, at best, hold only a relative validity. See his article, "Genealogy and the Critical Method" in Nietzsche Genealogy, Morality, 318-333. Finally, Alasdair Maclntyre argues the same point though in somewhat different fashion. Maclntyre holds that the genealogist can only consistently maintain his or her research program provided that he or she accepts, at some level, the continuity of the self. That is to say, the genealogist cannot merely be a construction of power along with everything else but must to some extent be beyond power. Since the genealogist admits that any concept or idea is really
a secondary phenomena (merely a mask for the will to power), then
must be the one entity which cannot be dissolved to the will to power. See Maclntyre's
"Genealogies and Subversions" in Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality, 284-306.
genealogical method itself are incapable of making any truth claims whatsoever because the genealogist admits that all truths are reducible to power formations.
I demonstrate that these sorts of arguments—ironically--presuppose that the question: 'What is genealogy?' has already been answered, when in fact the question has not even been asked. Without answering what, precisely, genealogy is, one cannot criticize it in any lucid nor detailed manner.
I should also point out that my intention in this book is not just to provide an answer to the question: 'What is philosophical genealogy?' but indeed is far more ambitious. I demonstrate how all of the sub-questions that stem from this investigation are interrelated to one another with the consequence that all must be asked together and all must be answered together in order to understand, in precise terms, what genealogy is and what it is not. What I offer in the following work therefore is not a mere summary and exposition of On the Genealogy of Morals and Discipline and Punish. Nor is my primary purpose even a critical examination of these works (though I do engage in this). Rather, the principal aim of this book is to provide nothing less than a reconstruction, indeed, one might even say a radical reconstruction of the aims, methods and techniques of genealogy qua genealogy. That is to say, I will attempt to outline the schematics for a successful genealogical inquiry: both what is required (epistemically and ontologically) and how a genealogical investigation gets off the ground. In sum, this work outlines, in explicit detail, the components, interrelationship between these components and goals for a successful, epistemically justified, genealogical investigation.
A further caveat is in order before we proceed. Nietzsche and Foucault have been interpreted as post-modern philosophers. Though post-modernism is difficult to define because it eschews all attempts of universal definition, we might begin by claiming that post-modernism is that position which claims that there is no single Truth (with a capital T), but only multiple truths. There is no grand narrative in which everything may be explained, but an infinite number of narratives which are incommensurable with each other. My aim in this book is not to interpret philosophical genealogy along these well trodden paths. These interpretations have been tried and are abject failures. They fail because they are not philosophical. They fail because they are incoherent. What I propose to do is to use the techniques, distinctions and concepts developed in recent analytic philosophy to show that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can provide a rigorous justification of genealogy while preserving its novelty, its profundity, its fecundity. We can preserve the
genealogists' call for the transvaluation of all values while also maintaining that some transvaluations are more meritorious than others. We can affirm the perspectivity of truth by showing that a disengaged, objective relationship to truth is an incoherent concept. We can view the body and our lives as works of art, but as artifacts that, at the same time, we may only transform because we understand them as natural entities.
The current volume presents the problems and hurdles that must be overcome before reaching the felicitous destination we seek. The second volume presents a reconstruction of the genealogical method that resolves the problems that were unearthed in the present volume.
Philosophical genealogy is a discipline that studies the formation, evolution and flourishing of values. Such values may be moral, ontic and/or epistemic. A genealogist traces the historical course of a particular value back to its origins. From this tracing, it is hoped that the value being studied will no longer be valued.
From the first volume, it was learned that the body serves as the ultimate, non-doxastic, causal touchstone for a genealogical investigation. It is the body which allows the genealogist to trace the development of one value from one historical dispositif to the next. In chapter 5 of the present volume, I return to answer the problems that were leftover from chapter two regarding the ontological status of the human body. I argue that we are able to navigate a course between the Scylla of essentialism on the one hand, and the Charbydis of anti-essentialism on the other, by articulating a middle ground position which, I call, following Ian Hacking, a "looping kind" position. In essence, I argue that the body, as with all things, is a tension of forces and counter-forces held together by what both Nietzsche and Foucault would call "will to power." Consequently, by understanding the composition and "quasi-structures" of the body on this more primordial level of power, I am successfully able to synthesize the positions of both the essentialist and anti-essentialist perspectives.
In brief, I argue that the body is, in fact, internally organized according to a specific mode of the will to power that Nietzsche would call "chains of nutrition" or what we may call today "chains of amino acids." But like the anti-essentialist, I am able to claim that the body's structures are only quasi-real; they are neither permanent nor absolute because other constructions of power are actively interpreting the body according to their respective agendas/needs. That is to say, all things, the human body included, are in a constant state of flux because of the ever shifting alliances and interpretations that all things in the cosmos take toward all others. Therefore, we can satisfy the essentialist by claiming that the body has, at the present time, some non-discursive structures which are
internally organized according to a peculiar mode of will to power, while satisfying the anti-essentialist by holding that the body, just like everything else in the world, is in a perpetual state of becoming. In sum, "the problem of the body" which caused so many difficulties of interpretation has been resolved.
In chapter 6 I solve another problem pertaining to philosophical genealogy. This particular and rather troublesome problem as I examined it only very briefly in chapter one concerned what we may call "the justification question" regarding the truth status of genealogical investigations. That is, I examine and analyze the basic epistemic guidelines and conditions a genealogist must meet and, as we will see, virtuously satisfy, in order to defend and endorse the epistemic merit or warrant of the particular genealogical inquiry in question. In essence, this chapter explains why a genealogical method and manner of philosophical and historical investigation is to be preferred to other methods of philosophic inquiry by explicitly demonstrating that genealogical investigations follow, (for the most part) a foundherentist schema of justification and empirical warrant as developed by the eminent logician and epistemologist Susan Haack. I support this contention by showing that both Nietzsche and Foucault use a wide variety of causally related and mutually supportive pieces of evidence to substantiate their respective hypotheses. I conclude this chapter by indicating that there remains a relatively minor, yet, unresolved problem with Haack's foundherentist position and I indicate how I will go about solving this problem in the last chapter.
Finally, in chapter 7 entitled, "Putting it Altogether: the Body, Power Truth and Ethical Axes" I conclude my book by resolving the remaining problems of chapter one, chapter three and chapter six. I demonstrate that the problem of perspectivism can be finally resolved by adopting, a la Hales and Welshon, "weak perspectivism" instead of its strong counterpart. But I also move well beyond their position by demonstrating the epistemic and ontological substructures of the perspectives we must employ. In addition, I also resolve the minor problem regarding the "virtue critique" of foundherentism with which I concluded chapter six. I argue that we can strengthen Haack's foundherentist position by supplementing it with three conditions of epistemic virtue, which all genealogical investigators must possess and practice when conducting a genealogical inquiry. These three epistemic virtues are those of askesis, parrhesia, and finally, 'intellectual courage.' I emphasize that my virtuous solution to some of the problems inherent to Haack's epistemological position (and really, to any epistemic position either externally or internally construed) is only a supplemental or secondary component to foundherentism proper.
Finally, in section IV, I explain how all of the various components and aspects of genealogy operate in tandem when a genealogical investigation is put into practice. I examine the body, power, truth and ethical dimensions of genealogy and explain how all of these various aspects, axes and components intersect and are interdependent upon one another. In addition, I also demonstrate the very special role the subject or genealogist plays in his or her historical investigation. I show that a genealogical analysis of a particular idea, event or institution always begins from a problematique that adversely affects the relationship (rapport a soi) that the genealogist has to herself.
I argue that the relationship to the self that Foucault speaks of in his late work is best understood as an ellipse: when the genealogist performs an inquiry, he or she does so always with his or her own edification of the relationship to oneself in mind. That is to say, the genealogist starts a genealogical investigation by trying to understand a problematique: the current modes of thought, action and communication that a genealogist finds to be confining and even life denying in a dispositif The purpose is then to transgress one's "limit experience" for the sake of greater freedom and artistic expression.
Perhaps the best manner to explain the above elliptical aspect to genealogy is to claim, following Deleuze, that the self is much like a fold or crease that is made in a piece of paper. The lines from what Deleuze calls the "outside", those of power, fold themselves over creating a habitat, as it were, within a particular dispositif. This crevice or process of "invagination"—as Deleuze calls it--creates the subject. However, this does not imply, as some scholars have suggested, that the self is then merely an effect of power. On the contrary, the self becomes the "hollowed out" or "folded over space" which represents a canvas of sorts, allowing the subject to mold and remold themselves according to the subject's aesthetic tastes and design. Thus, although the genealogist is nothing more than a tension of specific forces (organic, historical, cultural, discursive etc.) that have united within a specific historical dispositif, this however does not imply that the genealogist is merely a product of these forces. The genealogist is in a unique position to fold these forces over creating an interior within the very heart of exteriority, within the very heart of power itself. Since, as Nietzsche writes: "all things are the will to power and nothing else besides!" and all things have the power to recreate and reinterpret all other things, we too, as human beings and as subjects, can reinterpret the lines of force from the outside in order to create a self that is truly our own.
' Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Sec. 1067, 550.
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