The Limits of Experience: Idealist Moments in Foucault’s Conception of CriticalReflection

Philosophy Today 62 (3):869-888 (2018)
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In Foucault’s theoretical writings, the problem of experience occurs in two shapes: his discussions of “limit-experience” and his definition of “experience.” In this article, I propose an interpretation of the concept of “limit-experience” in Foucault’s historiography according to which experience is already limit-experience, and not its static and confining other. I claim that Foucault’s concept of experience involves spatially and temporally indexed, rule-governed practices and that his interrogation of experience becomes critical not by referring to some other of reason but by rendering visible the flip side of the limits of our own space of reasons. The argument in support of my interpretation of Foucault develops in two parts: 1) Foucault’s “methodology” should be seen not as historicizing the transcendental, but as giving it up. 2) This renunciation of the transcendental is nonetheless only intelligible and motivated against the background of the problematic of experience in Kant and Hegel. It thereby becomes possible to provide not a foundation but a justification for a Foucaultian critique of the limits of experience.
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