Friday, 14 October 2011


Foucault's essay 'What is Enlightenment' ('Was ist Aufklärung?') riffs on Kant's own 'Was ist Aufklärung?' piece. Amongst other things, Foucault suggests that 'Kant defines Aufklärung in an almost entirely negative way, as an Ausgang, an "exit", a "way out" ... he is not seeking to understand the present on the basis of a totality or of a future achievement. He is looking for a difference: what difference does today introduce with respect to yesterday?' I like this way of thinking about science -- that is, as something people assume will be an ausgang. It doesn't matter if existence, or our own irresponsibility, forces us into the cul-de-sac: science will open a door for us. For instance, medicine. For instance, climate change. Foucault is right that this is a mode of thinking with pernicious consqeuences.

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