Foucault On Obscurantism: ‘They Made Me Do It!’

Eugene Wolters in the blog Critical Theory:

Foucault-obscurantistMany scholars attack critical theory as “obscurantist” and nonsensical after their brief forays into the field make them realize, “hey, reading is hard.” To be fair, plenty of critical theory is nonsensical bullshit, that despite being empirically invalidated, seems to cling on to dear life in the dark corners of academia. And as we’ve noted before, Noam Chomsky has called out Lacan for being entirely self-aware of his chicanery and also took a jab at Slavoj Zizek. Interestingly enough, Chomsky differentiates Foucault from these alleged charlatans.

Chomsky noted that Foucault, unlike his colleagues, was actually intelligible if you sat him down in conversation. Chomsky said:

I’ve met: Foucault (we even have a several-hour discussion, which is in print, and spent quite a few hours in very pleasant conversation, on real issues, and using language that was perfectly comprehensible — he speaking French, me English)…

I don’t particularly blame Foucault for it: it’s such a deeply rooted part of the corrupt intellectual culture of Paris that he fell into it pretty naturally, though to his credit, he distanced himself from it.

Now, as Open Culture notes, Foucault admitted to his friend John Searle that he intentionally complicated his writings to appease his French audience. Searle claims Foucault told him: “In France, you gotta have ten percent incomprehensible, otherwise people won’t think it’s deep–they won’t think you’re a profound thinker.”

More here.