Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 15, No 1 (2019)

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Discontinuity in Poststructuralist Epistemology: Foucault contra Deleuze and Derrida

Mark G. E. Kelly

Abstract


In this paper, I divide the major late twentieth-century French philosophers typically classified as “poststructuralist” – namely Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault – into two camps, based on what I diagnose as their fundamentally divergent epistemological attitudes. The immediate point of drawing this division is to break up the apparent unity of “poststructuralism,” though it also serves to introduce an epistemological thesis with a wider potential applicability. I suggest that Deleuze and Derrida, despite differences that in some ways amount to a diametrical opposition, are united by an assumption that it is possible – at least in principle – to reconcile language with reality. On the other hand, I claim that Foucault thinks the relationship of language and reality in terms of fundamental and irreparable discontinuity, in this respect having more in common with Jacques Lacan than the contemporary compatriots with whom Foucault is more often associated.

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