This Is Not A Pipe Foucault Essay

This Is Not A Pipe Foucault Essay-30
t's a pipe, a palpable pipe: not a painterly pipe, not an abstract pipe.

t's a pipe, a palpable pipe: not a painterly pipe, not an abstract pipe.Lord knows, it's not an Expressionist pipe; it isn't even a Freudian pipe.In that conception, the sensible world and thought were united as attempts to represent the same undepictable reality.

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In ''Personnage Marchant Vers l'Horizon,'' Magritte depicts a man in topcoat and hat, his back to the viewer; he is surrounded by blobs, and these blobs are festooned with names - ''chair,'' ''horse,'' ''cloud'' and so on.

Language doesn't regiment reality but leaves it as slimy as ever.

Much better known for his incisive and mordant explorations of power and social exclusion, Foucault here assumes a more playful stance.

By exploring the nuances and ambiguities of Magritte's visual critique of language, he finds the painter less removed than previously thought from the pioneers of modern abstraction--"confronting them and within a common system, a figure at once opposed and complementary." Foucault's brief but extraordinarily rich essay offers a startling, highly provocative view of a painter whose influence and popularity continue to grow unchecked.

His work proposes a critique not simply of depiction but of all ''texts'' that aim at the truth. Foucault takes Magritte to recommend a free play of the imagination. Foucault can recommend this esthetic stance is a mystery to me.

Although he may have a taste for the playful as against the authoritarian, what reason can he give to persuade others to accept his preference?Beneath it in the obsequious copybook scrawl of a child, the subversive caption reads, ''This is not a pipe.'' It is signed ''Magritte.'' Here is paradox enough to sate the most perverse appetite.And in the French philosophe Michel Foucault, himself no mean practitioner of the oddball, Magritte's looking-glass pipe has found its Lewis Carroll, as the reader of this book will discover.None at all, since there can be no communication between worlds informed by different values: The advocate of any position either preaches to the converted or babbles meaninglessly. This essay not only proposes a new understanding of Magritte; it also constitutes a perfect illustration and introduction to the thought of the philosopher himself, France's great wizard of paradox. Foucault, which are included in this volume, the useful introduction and splendid translation by James Harkness and the handy (though hardly sumptuous) black-and-white reproductions of many of Magritte's works combine to make this a document of extraordinary interest.Thus does hyberbolic relativism induce conceptual claustrophobia. Flint Schier, who teaches philosophy at the University of Glasgow, has recently completed a book on pictorial representation, ''Deeper Into Pictures.'' Home | Site Index | Site Search | Forums | Archives | Marketplace Quick News | Page One Plus | International | National/N. This situation Hegel and the Romantics in the 19th century found intolerable, and perhaps we can here detect that great divide of sensibility that yawns between scientific or Positivist philosophy and those philosophies that have been circulating in Europe since Hegel and that have tried to put man, nature and reality back together again. Foucault is that he has reopened the radically sceptical case, but his Idealism says not that we know only appearances but that we know only the projections of our language. Foucault, no such thing as absolute knowledge; such knowledge would have to transcend its own representational resources, whether those resources are verbal or pictorial.Moreover, like the American philosophers of science Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, Mr.Descartes, however, radically changed that picture by claiming that the physical world is devoid of significance and that God communicates directly with rational creatures by inscribing various ideas (innate ideas) in the soul.After Descartes the Idealists sought to subtract the absurdly meaningless material world.Still, language spreads itself on the world, and its projections are all we know. Foucault's reading Magritte emerges as a deeper Modernist than, say, Kandinsky.Magritte uses its own resources to undo realistic representation, unraveling the world in a series of visual puns, paradoxes and contradictions.


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