Paine x Attacking the Burke x Idealistic

Hope everyone had a nice break. Trying to finish up my Foucault essay now, definitely having a lot of trouble. I’ve been wondering if I might have an easier time writing these essays if we received the prompts beforehand, or wrote them without prompts altogether (choosing our own essay topic kind of thing). Every time I take a crack at these essays, especially essays on non-fiction works, I find myself wishing I could re-read the entire text with the prompts in mind. I’ve been trying to guess essay prompts for Rights of Man, I guess we’ll see how that turns out.

I don’t follow current American politics very closely, but I can’t help but laugh at the way Paine goes at Burke and how familiar that feels. Political discourse in the states is centered around attacks and rebuttals, and Rights of Man is like watching a period piece on bi-partisanship. Paine just goes for it. He slips in ad hominem attacks whenever he can. I know its supposed to be a counter-attack to Burke’s criticism of the French Revolution, but it comes off as super aggressive and a little silly at time. I guess its funny to see what the current tradition of party politics evolved from.

I’d like to put forward a question to finish off this post. This text strikes me at times as highly idealistic. Flashes of pragmatism are evident in this text, but Paine’s high hopes for government and society are a lot more prominent. He characterizes the French Revolution as principled over and over again, but it often feels to me that these principles are inherently idealistic and unworkable. Any thoughts?

Hacking x Mysticism x History of Science

Sorry for the late post, still working on my essay rewrite, which has proved to be more challenging than I originally thought it would be. Nice to see how certain techniques and stylistic features of the non-fiction works we’ve been reading the past couple of weeks have permeated into my writing though. For one, I find myself making clearer distinctions (especially though negation – Fanon and Hacking both used a lot of this i.e. “Freud is not trying to say ____ nor _____.”) in my writing, and words that bring a lot more texture to relationships (“network” “operates as” etc.).

The Hacking text was a pleasant read, although I found the discussion of statistics and quantitative methods quite challenging. I really dug his discussion of trances and other discussions regarding mysticism and mystical elements. Thee discussions were focused on the place of mysticism in society (i.e. the trance as an “eastern” phenomenon), and I believe that at several points he was suggesting that the mystical explanation was used in order to make sense of multiple personality disorder before it became a “condition”. Disclaimer here though, havent been able to finish the book yet.

The way he clarified schizophrenia and separated it from multiple personality disorder was also really interesting for me, because I have long held the misconception that schizophrenia was characterized by multiple personalities.

Found the way that Hacking deals with philosophy and history of science very engaging. Always easier to work with science when its in a narrative and historically contextualized form. I’ve read a few other works in the similar vain (Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything might be familiar to some of you). The only thing I can of find funny about reading about history of sci is that it tends not to stick with me the same way as fiction does. Bryson’s work especially, is a blur to me. History of science is mildly interesting while you read it, but it lacks the emotional grasp to burn an imprint on the brain. It’s a narrative, and its science, but it’s not much more. Wondering if Hacking’s little science stories will go the same way. We’ll have to see I guess.

Foucault x Relations x Lists

Going to skip pleasantries and preambles this time around, hope no one takes offence.

Perhaps not the most central to the text, I’d like to suggest that Foucault’s History of Sexality vol. 1 aims to cast power as essentially a matter of relation. So much of Foucault’s description involves mechanism and economy. Like sex, there is always relation and interplay in Foucault’s understanding of the world. Uncovering the relations (power-knowledge and the like), therefore becomes the method through which one can find meaning.I find this idea provocative, although I suspect I’m drastically over-simplifying things here.

Foucault’s has a surprisingly enjoyable writing style considering the density of his ideas. He doesn’t attempt any fancy techniques, and he comes across as a very honest writer, which is endearing. Would also like to mention his use of lists and tendency to connect multiple independent clauses with colons and semicolons. His stupendously long sentences generally flow really nicely, and I have a hunch that this stylistic feature is characteristic of the french language.


I made some outrageously bold claims in original post. The whole book is not about relations. But I think that understanding the relations for Foucault are a lot more important than describing the essence of sex and sexuality.

This book is not about sex. It is not hoping to find the essence of sex through the evolution of sexual practices through history, nor is it trying to find some absolute truth about sexuality. This work, I believe, is set on finding the way that sexuality operates as a function of power.

Even what could be considered the more “bodily” depictions of sex in this book, that is, the discussion of perversions, are less concerned with the perversion or fetishes themselves than with the way that they played a part in supporting the norm, the “incorporation of perversions and a new specification of individuals” (42-43).

This is a quote I feel that is essential to this book and to the vague blur I’m trying to get at here:

“By creating the imaginary element that is “sex,” the deployment of sexuality established one of its most essential operating principles: the desire for sex – the desire to have it, to have access to it, to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate it in discourse, to formulate it in truth. It constituted “sex” itself as something desirable” (156-157)

Sex is only “sex” insofar as it is part of a network, part of a system. That, if anything, is the essence of sex.