As ilhas afortunadas

Que voz vem no som das ondas
Que não é a voz do mar?
É a voz de alguém que nos fala,
Mas que, se escutamos, cala,
Por ter havido escutar.

E só se, meio dormindo,
Sem saber de ouvir ouvimos,
Que ela nos diz a esperança
A que, como uma criança
Dormente, a dormir sorrimos.

São ilhas afortunadas,
São terras sem ter lugar,
Onde o Rei mora esperando.
Mas, se vamos despertando,
Cala a voz, e há só o mar.

– Fernando Pessoa, “Mensagem”, 3ª parte: O encoberto, I – Os símbolos, Quarto: As ilhas afortunadas.

Pour détruire les formes circulaires du sujet

This 15-minute footage is from a one-hour long interview that was conducted by the Dutch philosopher Fons Elders in preparation for the debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, which was broadcasted on Dutch television on Sunday, Nov. 28, 1971. The whole interview was essentially lost for decades and was published in the winter of 2012 for the first time.

At the time of the interview Foucault held a chair self-titled “History of Systems of Thought” at the prestigious Collège de France. The exchange between Elders and Foucault, however, took place in Foucault’s apartment in Paris on Rue de Vaugirard on Monday, Sept. 13, 1971. The video was subsequently kept in the archives of a Dutch TV building which unfortunately burned. As a result, the fifteen minutes shown here is all that is left of the full interview footage. Thankfully, before burning, the whole interview had been professionally hand transcribed from the original French, and the rights had kindly been given over to Elders by Foucault himself at the time of the interview.

As might be noticeable to viewers, the Foucault “profile” presented here is a montage that puts together several parts of the whole interview. As such, it does not fully follow the original interview chronologically, putting together parts that work but which are not faithful to the natural flow of the live interview. To show wherever such interruptions to have taken place, ellipses were included (“…”) in the subtitles. For an unaltered flow of the interview, check out the book “Freedom and Knowledge”, edited by Elders.

«Je ne souhaite pas qu’au cours de l’émission télévisée que vous voulez bien me consacrer, une place soit faite à des données biographiques. Je considère en effet qu’elles sont sans importance pour le sujet traité.»

C’est cet encart, tapé à la machine, qui introduit cette interview, quasiment inédite, de Michel Foucault.

[2:50] Society’s rationalization

[3:40] Knowledge as exclusion

[4:40] “The universalité de notre savoir a était acquis au prix des exclusions”

[5:20] Archaeology of knowledge

[7:00] Structuralism

[9:10] Systems of relations, structuralistm, questioning of the sovereignty of the subject, drug experience

[11:20] Personal life, the expression of individuality, humanism as imprisonment of man controlled by the sovereignty of the subject

[14:00] “Je ne dis pas les choses parce que je les pense. Je dis les choses pour ne plus les penser”

[14:25] “Je ne crois pas, si vous voulez, aux vertus de l’expression. La langage qui m’ intéresse c’est celui qui peut détruire justement toutes les formes circulaires, closes, narcissiques, du sujet” = “disparition de l’homme”, “Cette figure est en train de disparaître”

Le tunnel du Saint-Gothard

«[9 janvier 1889] Alors que le chemin de fer traverse le tunnel du Saint-Gothard, Nietzsche se met alors à fredonner “un chant merveilleux, d’une mélodie vraiment étrange”, qui n’est autre qu’un de ses derniers poèmes, intitulé “Venise”…»

in Frédéric Pajak, “L’immense solitude – avec Friedrich Nietzsche et Cesare Pavese, orphelins sous le ciel de Turin”, Lausanne: Éditions Noir sur Blanc, 2011, p. 210.

Minha alma, um instrumento de cordas

«Meine Seele, ein Saitenspiel,
Sang sich, unsichtbar berührt,
Heimlich ein Gondellied dazu,
Zitternd vor bunter Seligkeit.
– Hörte jemand ihr zu?…»

[Minha alma, um instrumento de cordas,
canta-se ela, invisivelmente tocada,
uma secreta canção de gondoleiro,
tremendo de variegada felicidade.
– Ouviu-a alguém?…]

– Nietzsche, Venedig [“Veneza”], in “Ecce Homo”.

Transparent water

«Aber auch nicht seine Tugenden verbergen! – Ich liebe die Menschen, welche durchsichtiges Wasser sind und die, mit Pope zu reden, auch “die Unreinlichkeiten auf dem Grunde ihres Stromes sehen lassen.” Selbst für sie giebt es aber noch eine Eitelkeit, freilich von seltener und sublimirter Art: Einige von ihnen wollen, dass man eben nur die Unreinlichkeiten sehe und die Durchsichtigkeit des Wassers, die diess möglich macht, für Nichts achte. (…)».

[But also not concealing one’s virtues – I love those humans who are like transparent water and who, as Pope says, even “let the impurities on the bottom of their stream to be seen”. Even though, for them, there is still a vanity, it is, admittedly, of a rarer and more sublimated kind: some of them wish that one only just sees the impurities and does not regard the transparency of the water which makes this possible. (…)].

– Nietzsche, “Morgenröte“[Dawn], §558.


«My faults will not be hid from you, and perhaps it is no dispraise to me that they will not: the cleanness and purity of one’s mind is never better proved, than in discovering its own faults at first view; as when a stream shows the dirt at its bottom, it shows also the transparency of the water.»

– Alexander Pope, letter to Mr. Congreve, Jan. 16, 1714-5.


«Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.[*]
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

– Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”, 1733-1734.

(*) This line was “The only Science of Mankind is Man” in the first edition, but it was corrected by the author afterwards. Right: not science.