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“Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences” by Foucault

Argument

The central argument that Michel Foucault puts forward in the Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences is that relevant points of history, knowledge, and humankind come in a specific order. By discussing the order, the author points to a series of assumptions that make up the relevant systems through which life as people know it is being navigated. In the first Chapter, Foucault turns to the analysis of Las Meninas, the enigmatic Velasquez painting. The focus is placed on analyzing the complex interplay of visual relationships that exist between the painter, the subject-model, and the audience of viewers rather than on technical ability or the context of the work. From the analysis, stem the primary signs of the way of thinking, episteme, which represent a discontinuity between the classical and the modern.

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Support

To support Foucault’s argument about the forming of history through specific points, the analysis of Las Meninas is given. To the author, the painting represents a historical document that also reveals a unique and groundbreaking way of understanding the past and its presence. By exploring disruptions, or discontinuities, the author illuminates an important epistemic change in Western culture. Such discontinuities shape the ways in which the world is understood within different eras, with the major shift that is being underlined occurring between the Classical Era and the seventeenth century. Foucault points out that it is simply the mode of being of things, and of the order in which they are being divided up prior to presenting them to the historical discourse was profoundly altered. The threads that are present in Las Meninas were previously ignored by the domains of history.

Evidence

In the exploration of shifting points and themes in archaeology, the example of Las Meninas by Diego Velasquez is given the role of a changing point, which enables a discontinuity in the representation and value of an artwork, the role of the painter and the viewer, and the changing relationships and interrelated meanings, including language. Foucault writes, “it is not that words are imperfect, or that, when confronted by the visible, they prove inadequate. […] it is in vain that we say what we see; what we see never resides in what we say” (Foucault 1970, 9). The author encourages his audience to have an open view and acknowledge the dissonance between speech and images. The dissonance can be overcome by allowing the painting to speak by itself, with ascribing any additional meanings to what is being presented to viewers.

Critique

In attempting to explain and analyze the discontinuity in the ways of knowing the world, Foucault invites readers to dive into the Las Meninas painting as directly as possible. Thus, the value of the author’s analysis is that it is not a contribution to art history. There are no explanations of the underlying themes or motives that the painter was trying to transfer, nor does Foucault depict the reality of truth. The author does not look for the ways of finding the truth that is hiding behind the painting, but rather explores the manner in which the painting helps to understand the present. Despite the complexity of Foucault’s interpretations, the lens through which the author looks at art as artifacts of culture and the discontinuity between different historical periods should be noted. Order of Things opens up a philosophical framework that can be used to further look at history.

References

Foucault, Michel. 1970. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Pantheon Books.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, July 25). “Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences” by Foucault. https://studycorgi.com/order-of-things-an-archaeology-of-human-sciences-by-foucault/

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StudyCorgi. "“Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences” by Foucault." July 25, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/order-of-things-an-archaeology-of-human-sciences-by-foucault/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2022. "“Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences” by Foucault." July 25, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/order-of-things-an-archaeology-of-human-sciences-by-foucault/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2022) '“Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences” by Foucault'. 25 July.

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