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Synopsis of [unsigned], ‘Position de la généalogie des sciences’

[‘The Position of the Genealogy of Sciences’]

CpA 9.Introduction:3

This foreword to the ninth volume is the first to appear without a signature, and thus to appear in effect as a text written by the (recently expanded) Cercle d’Epistémologie; it is also the last foreword to be published in the Cahiers, as the tenth and final volume doesn’t include one.

The only discourse that might say something about the essence of the sciences would itself be a ‘science of the sciences’. Given the ‘syntax’ at work in the sciences, there are only two other ways of discussing them. The first option is to approach them from a perspective whereby they themselves remain missing, i.e. still to come: ‘this is the discipline called the history of sciences, which concerns only their prehistory or progression.’ The second option would be ‘to efface what distinguishes them in the universe of discourse’, an approach associated here with ‘archaeology, antinomy of the sciences.’

To grasp the sciences as they try to grasp themselves, by contrast, would be to understand them as belonging to (or prescribing) an ‘eternal present’, one purged of history and memory. Such a present might be described as ‘the eternal Return of their birth, an infinitesimal time in which they incessantly render themselves independent of that which determines their being, and renounce their filiations.’ What (following Foucault) the Cahiers editors invoke here as ‘genealogy’ serves, then, ‘to designate the reminder of these forgotten filiations, according to an inscription that is sufficiently neutral so as to cancel the difference between the archaeologist and the historian.’

Science, sciences: what is at issue is a ‘plural singular’. What orients each specialised branch of the sciences is an impossible ‘Ideal’ point, from which (that) science might see its divided body as ‘whole’. In the classical age of early modernity, ‘God’ was the name given to this ideal, and ‘geometry’ the name of its idealised scientific reflection. ‘Modern scientism’, however, has closed down the space of such reflection, by giving ‘the impossible point the trait of its imaginary correlate, by understanding it as Science [in the singular].’

Confronted with such a tight knot of ‘knowledge and misunderstanding’, such a powerful assertion of ‘continuity and mastery’, the genealogy of modern science must force open its own path and hold scientists themselves to account, questioning their apparently ‘virtuous’ and ‘egalitarian’ pretensions. Genealogical analysis of the scientists will investigate (in terms that echo Lacan as much as Foucault) ‘the fate of their desire’ and the conditions whereby they claim ‘that all are equal before the truth.’ In the process, genealogy will analyse the logic of ‘foreclosure’ at work both ‘in the subjective position it establishes and also in the politics that insinuates itself there.’

English translation: