April 27, Sunday afternoon -- Reading Michel Foucault

At the Revolution Cafe on a rare San Francisco day when people were actually saying, it's too hot.

Reading Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, by Michel Foucault, edited by Donald F. Bouchard.

This was another one of those conversations when I wished I had a pen and paper with me. I always feel uneasy when I can't write things down. The book, as he described it to me, I cannot do justice. My immediate reaction, which he confirmed, is that what the book offers is difficult to access. I was not feeling very smart at the moment. I had heat stroke--I hadn't been brave enough to leave the house without long underwear. The book's subject matter, as I understood it, had to do with rethinking a priori knowledge (that which is independent of experience) so that underlying structures, be they institutional or whatever, can be changed. When something is assumed, without realizing an assumption is being made, change cannot occur.

Some of his favorite books--Catch 22, by Joseph Heller; 1984, by George Orwell; Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut...or maybe not Slaughterhouse Five, he decided.

When he was a child he remembers reading the Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald Sobol. He doesn't really remember the content of the books, but it seemed that, he reflected (and I hope I'm getting this right because I didn't write this down either), the world Encyclopedia Brown lived in was one in which you could identify a problem and, as an individual, apply reasoning skills and go out and solve it, that we have within ourselves what it takes to solve any problem, autonomously. Maybe this is why things are frustrating as adults, he reasoned, because the problem solving examples we were shown as children don't always apply to the world we actually live in. If we think we can accomplish things autonomously, we will not effect change.

What books would you go to in approaching problem solving in your life, today?


TootsNYC said...

Wow, what a great insight into Encyclopedia Brown!

Reminds me of my favorite problem-solving books--because they are the opposite. The problem solvers have to work in a group; they have to take into consideration that the people they are trying to influence cannot be compelled to agree w/ them, etc.

Interestingly, these are kids' books as well: The Pony Pals series by Jeanne Betancourt.

(for more detail, read my review at Amazon.com--it's hung around a while: http://tinyurl.com/59t8xt )

I think I gave them all away (my daughter is 14 now), but they were a really great model for how to problem solve in the real, complex world.

Sonya said...

Thanks Tootsnyc,
That's great. I feel like I've got a week of problem solving ahead and could use some motivation....

linfoma_a-escrota said...

terence mckenna goddamit!!!!!!!


Ms. Bassette said...

Wow! I just watched The Big Bang Theory with my family, and then I was headed to bed, realizing I hadn't checked your blog yet for the night....Encyclopedia Brown???? Can I ask for more in my life???? I loved the series as a kid. I wish kids still read it; do they?

To be able to figure out mysteries; to be able to believe in yourself and your judgments; is there anything more in life?

Ms. Bassette said...

I had to go back to check the blog since my computer spaced out on me.

I loved the phrase, from Sonya, "I hadn't been brave enough to leave the house without long underwear". We have had great weather too here in upstate NY and haven't really trusted it either...so I was enjoying that turn of the word, and then I got so taken up with Encyclopedia Brown that I forgot what it was all about.

My main idea was on prior knowledge. Working with 8th graders, I'm striving for them to have 'prior knowledge'. What a treat to sit in on a blog that discusses the idea of people reworking their prior knowledge. I can only wish for that with my students; I know it is a treat for me when I do that very same thing!! Changing our thoughts (prior) is an incredibly great part of life.

Enough; now I have stayed up to be caught in House, the only other show I watch!!

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