Foucault

Reading various philosophers introduces to ideas we never think of. I came across Foucault and his take on power, punishment fascinated me. So, to understand his ideas I picked up A Very Short Introduction by Gary Gutting.

Some of the ideas/quotes which the author covers

1) Foucault said “The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”

2) What is an author? Is a person who writes shopping list on a paper an author?

3) Politics – distinction between polemics and problematizations. Gary writes “Political discussions should be driven by the concrete problems that raise our questions, not by the established theories that claim to be able to answer them.”

4) Archaeology of knowledge – every author writes under constraints of his time. Gary writes “But Foucault’s idea is that every mode of thinking involves implicit rules that materially restrict the range of thought. We will not be so much interested in, say Hume or Darwin as in what made Hume or Darwin possible.”

— marginalization of the subject
— do not ask what Descartes mean but “they use what Descartes – wrote as clues to the general structure of the system in which they thought and wrote.”

5) There is an intimate tie between knowledge and power. “Foucault claims that power has a positive epistemic role, not only constraining or eliminating knowledge but also producing it.”

6) Crime and Punishment – “The most striking thesis of Discipline and Punish is that the disciplinary techniques introduced for criminals become the model for other modern sites of control ( schools, hospitals, etc.). so that prison discipline pervades all of modern society.”

— Foucault says that modern approach to discipline produces ‘docile bodies’ through 3 means – Hierarchical observation, normalizing judgement and examination.
— “Society itself appears as a multitude of dominated others: not only criminals but also students, patients…. Each of us is the subject of modern power.”

Philosophy

My first encounter with philosophy was Buddhism in 2003. I stumbled upon Buddhism through a book. But, at that time I did not know that philosophy was a field in itself. Recently, for some reason, I have become interested in philosophy. Actually, it was my interest in history which led me to reading “The Story of Philosophy”. And, then I joined the introduction course on philosophy at Coursera.
What is philosophy? According to professor in Coursera - Good philosophy is the activity of working out the right way of thinking about the things that matter most to us. What a wonderful definition! Don’t we face situations in life where we wish we could think through things and take an appropriate decision.The professor also says that philosophy is fundamental -

This is because philosophy involves stepping back and examining the presuppositions of what you’re doing, or the questions you’re asking. What are those presuppositions? Are they the right ones?

In a way, philosophy seems like scientific thinking :) Can we use philosophy to explore the IPL saga.

In last few weeks the betting scandal has rocked the IPL. Should IPL be banned? Why? Why IPL is so successful? Why people love watching T20? I prefer test match cricket anytime. Why do we watch sports? Should we go back to amateur era? Is any sport clean? Chess, my favorite game, is also facing crisis due to cheating by players using technology. So, is any sport completely clean? In fact, is any institution completely clean? Seems corruption is very much part of human organisations. The severity of corruption varies. To tackle corruption steps are taken. Some steps work, some don’t. So, IPL too has to take steps to clean the mess and carry on.

Philosophers ask various fundamental questions. Philosophy has some specific topics.

1) What is Knowledge? – Epistemology
2) What is morality? Is there a universal moral? – The Definition of Morality
3) Utilitarianism Utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, specifically defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering
4) Most confusing is Metaphysics
5) Absurdism – From wikipedia, “In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any“. The ‘Myth of Sisyphus’ by Albert Camus is a famous work on absurdism. One can read the notes here – http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/sisyphus/

I end with this quote by Socrates, as mentioned in, ‘The Story of Philosophy’,

Do you then be reasonable and do not mind whether the teachers of philosophy are are good or bad, but think of Philosophy herself. Try to examine her well and truly; and if she be evil, seek to turn away all men from her; but if she be what I believe she is, then follow her and serve her, and be of good cheer.