May 5, 2013
Chomsky and Foucault Debate Analysis Paper
Chomsky-Foucault debate on human nature brought together arguably the two most prominent Western intellectual-activists of the day in a debate that shows clearly the train of thought prominent where each writer was situated. The discussion was in two parts, the first an analysis of where and how knowledge was created, with particular focus for the natural sciences, the second explicitly focused on the role and practice of oppositional politics within Western capitalist democracies which I believe were in response to the unfolding Vietnam War. The discussion between Chomsky and Foucault reveals insight into many features of their work, and there is far too much of interest in the discussion to be expressed within the limits of a single article as you can see through Elders request to the men to try to somewhat limit their answers. The discussions raise many questions as to the debates in social and political thought. I am going to examine a limited number of themes in this article. For instance, the title of the discussion, "Human Nature: Power vs. Justice," describes a great deal about each of the antimodernist and modernist positions of Foucault and Chomsky. The discussion touches on past and present debates about ideas of essentialism that are of importance for the social sciences. In this essay I am going to present what I take to be the three main aspects of Foucault's anti-essentialist critique and its effects on social and political thought. This is only one strand of Foucault's work, but it is only these specific themes that I am concerned with here. I will then turn to Chomsky's rationalist account of human nature to show its effect for social and political thought and the ways in which it might be able to counter the powerful anti-essentialist critique made by Foucault. In doing this I will outline three aspects of Chomsky's work as a defense of a...