Knowledge Encapsulates Freedom, Foucault Relationships Encapsulates Knowledge

maniteesThe Physics Of A New Episteme-A New Relationship With Nature

In so far as liberation occurs, power arrangements occur. And, in so far as power arrangements occur, they begin to dictate the terms of the liberation process. According to Foucault, these power arrangements become the defining force in the environment. As has already been pointed out, the liberation movement of freedom eventually liberated the “implied knowledge of the environment.”  From that point on, knowledge became the most encapsulating vehicle of freedom and freedom became manifest in power relationships.

Social organization and social structure are born out of the power arrangements which best reflect the prevailing episteme. According to Foucault, man (as a conceptual entity) and scientific knowledge are also born out of these power arrangements. Blanchot describes the theme that surfaces “above the analysis” in Foucault’s books:

“Thus, already in The Archaeology of Knowledge,  where we seem to indulge in the illusion of an autonomous discourse (an illusion with which literature and art perhaps bewitch themselves), there are announced the multiple connections between knowledge and power, and the obligation to recognize the political effects that are produced, at any given moment in history, by the ancient desire to disentangle the true from the false. Knowledge, power, truth? Reason, exclusion, repression?” [Foucault, Blanchot, 1987, p. 80]

These power/knowledge relationships, when considered in the context of the liberation process, become just another obstacle that stands in the way of liberation. These “pockets of power,” in the form of social structure and social organization, may be thought of as static elements in the liberation process; that is, from the point of view of the people who tend to benefit from these “pockets of power” they are static, but, from the point of view of the people who are “locked out” of these “pockets of power” they are oppressive. In other words, although power/knowledge relationships dictate the options available in terms of accessing one’s environment, ultimately, there is no preferred state of privilege and control; it all becomes an obstacle in the liberation process.

Of course, in the real world, I realize I have just described the stratification of the “haves” and “have-nots;” and, I suppose, Foucault would be content to leave it at that. One cannot deny that built into the power structure of social organization is the secured status and privilege of the groups that possess the most power. And further, this security, more often than not, becomes secured by denying power (access to the environment) to an “underprivileged” class of people. This said, it should also be noted that the power/knowledge consequence of the liberation process, as it becomes manifest in the highly differentiated attributes of society (Durkheim) contributes positively to the individuals well being, health, growth, and freedom–the freedom that satisfies needs, permits access, provides security, encourages aesthetic appreciation, provides moral examples, and, promotes justice, attests to this fact. At the very least, in so far as change is inherent in the liberation process, this change may be for the better. In order to

understand how this change for the better can come about, a whole new way of thinking must incorporate itself into the social fabric. A new episteme, in Foucault’s language, must arise. This episteme has already taken root, I believe, in the logical implications generated by the new physics.

The new physics speaks of strange and exciting phenomena. Where this physics will take us is presently unclear but, with evidence accumulating everyday, what is becoming clearer is that it is incorrect to think of our relationship to nature in terms of the three-term relationship of Locke’s mental substance, appearance and material particles. Berkeley, Hume and Kant addressed the inadequacy of this three-term relationship. In brief, John Locke did not have to choose this three-term relationship to explain Newton’s particles. He could have said that mathematical space and time is the vehicle which allows for an analytical account of the aesthetic continuum and that the observer and what appears for the observer are determinations of this aesthetic continuum.

[Footnote. This and the next couple of paragraphs are meant to be a very brief summary of a theme developed in F.S. Northrop’s book The Meeting of East and West, 1946, see chapter entitled The Solution of the Basic Problem, p.436]

He could have said this but he did not because it would have been extremely difficult, given the interpretation of Newtonian physics at the time.

Now we know that it is more accurate if we describe our relationship to nature in the form of a two-term relationship. The first term of the two-term relationship is the theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated, component of experience while the second term is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum. This aesthetic component of experience is relative to every individual while the theoretic component occurs in a public space characterized by repeatable experiences. Confirmation of the theoretical component of our experience becomes the key word here and this confirmation may be formal, as in a scientific result, or it may be informal, as in the best that pragmatism has to offer – if it works, use it.


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