Stuffetcetera The website of Jeremy Kearns-Watts.


Week 6: The Enlightenment

6. Why is the 'Enlightenment' still an issue for Post-Structural thinkers? In what ways do Habermas' and Foucault's accounts of modernity and of the Enlightenment differ? Why does it matter? What questions do the debates over the Enlightenment raise about the issue of legacy and inheritance?

Of course the Enlightenment is still an issue for all present academics. Even beyond the birth of modernity in 1492, the Enlightenment period has had the most profound impact on all thought and continues to effect present philosophy. Where we once looked to the Greeks for a basis to philosophy and academic practise, all advanced though now owes an exorbitant debt to the actions of Enlightenment thinkers. Such are the lasting consequences of that period of time, that undoubtedly, until we have some new profound event to clear the cobwebbed corridors of academia, nothing will be able to function within our ivory tower without some reference to that great affecting period, the Enlightenment.

Foucault's views on the different periods of times remain utterly unique. Tinted by his insistence on the term episteme and overwhelming focus on the obscure founders of new thought processes. Habermas and the rest of the regular establishment looks on the great movers and shakers and not those who stayed at the sidelines.

To some degree, who we concentrate on when analysing the past doesn't really matter beyond personal taste, until one begins to claim heritage from the ancients and ancestors. If we see ourselves as working from the works of those who have gone before, then we aught to remain respectful of their opinions as we can read them and of their context. People in different ages certainly approached things in different ways, even if this was simply due to differences in what people have been taught as true in different times. A result of this is that we could accidentally transfer twenty-first century notions onto the past and unforgivably tryto hold the dead accountable for things that were not their fault.


Week 5: Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction & Différance

Outline some of the ways you think Derridaʼs theories of deconstruction and différance unsettle certainties about the self, truth, and meaning. Are there any ethical implications that emerge out of his work? If you think there are, what might these be?

I do not think, therefore I am not.


Deconstruct this!


Week 4: Michel Foucault: Knowledge, Power & the Intellectual

Summarise Foucaultʼs theories regarding ʻtruthʼ, ʻpowerʼ and ʻknowledgeʼ. What do you think they imply for the academic study of religions?




Truth i. The quality of being true (and allied senses). ii. Conformity with fact; agreement with reality. iii. Something that is true. Power i. Ability to do something or anything, or to act upon a person or thing. ii. An influential or governing person, body, or thing: in early use, one in authority, a ruler, governor. iii. Techn. uses. [dull]

Knowledge i. Acknowledgement, confession; re-cognitions of the position or claims (of any one). ii. The fact of knowing a thing, state, etc., or person; acquaintance; familiarity. The above definitions from The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles.

For Foucault, Truth is an unobtainable goal for those unlearned in the actualities of advanced philosophical thought. There is no ultimate truth, no a priori knowledge, only concepts that have been crafted, after the fact, by us, imperfect humans. Power and knowledge in Foucault's eyes are inseparably linked through discourse, each contributes to the manufacture of the other in the realm of academic conversations. Knowledge is continually revised and updated within each historical (archeological?) episteme - a term apparently invented by Foucault and which is essentially a french way of saying zeitgeist. Knowledge has no single source in each age but is instead birthed by the mental faculties of every and all major thinkers at the time. Power too has no single source but is produced by every one at that time.

Graham Greene once wrote to the effect that torture never occurs except by mutual consent, and that as a result of the welfare state, the British no longer maintained a torturable class. Though I'm not sure how well I can put together the analogy I feel that this demonstrates the Foucaultian position of power and to some extent knowledge also. At a place where torture may occur, if we take Greene to be writing close to reality, then the actual act of torture can only take place when both parties manufacture the power relationship for the torturer and when the torturer becomes knowledgeable of this extension of his power. The tortured party too, must know that his social position is such where torture either can or cannot take place. Thus manufacturing the conditions necessary where power and knowledge applied allow for the act of torture.

As to the implications of this, I must ponder (with reference to my notes) how we can use a discourse to challenge power if it is the source of power? What I think I meant at the time was to question the validity of making any sort of truth claims or judgement calls from any supposedly neutral point of view. If the academic debate is indeed the place that manufactures knowledge and power relationships in the world then how can it be ethical for any academic to attempt to revise the relationships. But then again, if you can't change things when in a position of power, then what is the point of getting the powerful position? And I'd like to think that any decision that is at least somewhat informed is likely to be more beneficial than one that is just a stab in the dark.