The Order of Things: an Archeology of the Human Sciences by Michal Foucault




He wants to describe epistemological space specific to a period--to reveal the archeological system common to consciousness at a given period


Traditional notions of causality he viewed as rather magical than effective


Thinks subject is determined by forces that overwhelm it--rejects centered notion of man--and thus transcendental consciousness--study not knowing subject, but discursive practice.


Looks to describe the conditions or rules for discourse--the preconditions for discourse




Examines the limits of our system of thought--give list of Chinese emperor

Chinese classification in an encyclopedia

Animals are a-belonging to the emperor, b- embalmed c- tame -d- sucking pigs e- sirens  f- fabulous g- stray dogs h- included in the present classification i-frenzied j- immune

rable k- drawn with a very fine camelhair brush l- etcetera m- having just broken the water pitcher n- that from a long way off look like flies


The taxonomy , quoted by Borges lead to thought without space, to words and categories that lack life and place, but are rooted in a ceremonial space. 


When we establish a considered classification, when we say cats and dogs resemble each other less than two greyhounds what is the ground on which we are able to establish the validity of this classification with certainty?  On which “table” according to what grid of identities, similitudes, analogies have we become accustomed to sort out so many different and similar things.  What is this coherence - which as is immediately apparent is neither determined by an a priori and necessary concatation nor imposed on us by immediately?

the list is remarkable because the common ground which ordered it is gone--it orders according to a different set of categories and is lost

Perceptible contents?


What modalities of order have been recognized, posited, linked with space and time, in order to create the positive basis of knowledge as we find it employed in grammar and philology, in natural history and biology in the study of  wealth and political economy?  What were the supposedly a priori assumptions could science be established?


What table or epistemic grid do we order things by?


Things are ordered by grids and existence only through grids--i.e., a set of preliminary criteria--fundamental codes of a culture which structure what he calls home--encoded eye--each modality of order structures world to examine the basis for how knowledge arose and become possible mode of being and order change--


two levels--surface and archeological.

The classical age starts roughly half-way through the 17th century

The modern at the beginning of the nineteenth

the system of positivities was transformed in a wholesale fashion at the end of

 the 18th century

The coherence and configuration between the theory of representation and the theories of language, of the natural orders and of wealth and value change entirely.

The theory of representation disappears as the universal foundation of all possible orders (the order between representation and reality being done by language to things having their own coherence.

The analysis of exchange and money gives way to the study of production, that of the organism takes precedence over the search for taxononomic characteristics and , above all, language loses its privileged position and becomes, in its turn, a historical form coherent with the density of its own past.  Then man, for the first time , enters the field of knowledge.


Study of this requires an analysis of what things were thought to be the same or resemble each other.


Classical Age (CA)--theory of representation-structured theories of language, natural orders and wealth and value


Man is recent invention and will hopefully disappear again.


Interested in how culture experiences and how it establishes tabula of relationships between things and the order in which they must be considered--history of the Same


What separates modern from classical.


Las Meninas


Observer and observed engage in ceaseless exchange--no gaze is stable--continual reversal of roles


Artist and observer both engage in ordering subject/object continual process of representation in a condition of pure reciprocity


The observer can't see himself observing--just as the picture can't represent its representing artist who is representing can't be in same picture as sovereign being represented--denies subject position--everything is representation--disappearance of subject.



He profiles a Velasquez painting.  It has a spiral shell of representation : the gaze, the palate and brush, the canvas innocent of signs (these are the material tools of the representation), the paintings, the reflections, the real man (the completed representation, but as it were freed from its illusory or truthful contents, which are juxtaposed to it)’ then the representation dissolves again, we can see only the frames and the light that is flooding the pictures from outside, but that they in return, must reconstitute in their own king as though it were coming from elsewhere, passing through their dark wooden frames.  And we do, in fact, see this light on the painting, apparently welling out from the crack of the frame; and from there it moves over to tough the brow, the cheekbones, the eyes, the gaze of the painter who is holding the brush and palette and so the spiral is closed (11).  And the entire scene is looking out at a scene for which it itself is a scene. 

Chapter 2


I  Four Similitudes


Up to 16th century, resemblance or similitude was dominant mode of painting imitated space

4 essential ordering principles


            1)  convenience--juxtaposition--adjacency--edges touching--refers less to things then to the structure of the world which is linked together like a chain in place animals to plants body to soul, grass on man’s face, these corrupt and resemble by proximity (body and soul)  Same number of fish as animals

            The world is simply the universal convenience of things - plant to animal man to stars (via his intelligence) to g-d.  first cause to final cause.


            2)  emulation--things don't have to be in contact to resemble and communicate with each other--hierarchy--like stars to earth--forms series of concentric circles  man to gods intelligence.  mouth to venus.  Which imitates the real, neither, they come in pairs as all things do.  But one may be stronger (like stars over plants) man has a sky and firmament within himself. 


            3)  analog

y--1 and 2 are superimposed-we are the equal and opposite of plants (we feed down and are mobile)-diamond in rock-- man on earth--in this form man is the center, the surface ground--allows all figures in universe to be drawn together.  Man stands in proportion to heaven and earth and plants and storms and all things by analogy.  bones rocks veins rivers bladder oceans.  mind heaven shit hell


            4)  sympathy--draws things together--assimilating--negates difference--unites--counterbalanced by antipathy--both give rise to other forms of resemblance- change is due to this


II Signatures


1-4 tell how world reproduces itself and folds in on itself


The buried similitudes must be indicated on the surface of things--notations of nature

to know the nature of something you must understand how it reveals its sign.  Seeds that look like eyes are in sympathy with them, walnuts the head (looks like brain) teach palmistry here.

World of similarity a world of signs--hieroglyphics in need of being deciphered the whole system of mirrors and #4, generate the signs to see below surface to real connections

g-d made the world in his own image.  The scriptures are a mirror of signs semiotic:  ability to see signs hermeneutics:  ability to interpret signs


III  Limits of the World


At this time the word microcosm got big.  Macro and microcosms created limits.  Things were proven by lists of 1-4 and the end result was a world closed in on itself and finite.  But the infinite world they saw enhanced by discovery of Greek thought of the 15 hundreds made them try to find all the analogies in the world so their signs and reality could be meshed by the observer.

Magic was big into the 17th century (words had corresponding power) as these twins were not selected contents but required forms.  The world is covered with signs that must be deciphered.  We get palmistry and the knowing of goodness of walnuts for headaches cause they look like brains and a campaign to find the use or meaning of things from their signs.  Language and scriptures were also a matter of signs approximating something else.  Hebrew (post Babel) is the only language that retains the symbolic nature linking man and god via it with symbols of both embedded this episteme only new the same--sought connections as being means to unite things separated after Babel—serpent marks resemble referent


IV Writing of things


The various sciences were structured according to similar principles nature consist in an unbroken network of signs (word to intellect of god)


Knowledge consisted in united all the various strains that had been separated

In end times we would know the ultimate significance of the words and this is the goal

below surface text is original text--primal discourse


V  Being in Language


By (CA), the bound between the word and the world had been dissolved, and became limited to relation between sign and representation--simultaneously, literature appears and keeps an element of language as symbolizing something

g real, but now as it had still appeared at the end of the Renaissance.  For we no longer have that primary, that absolutely initial word upon which the infinite movement of discourse was founded and by which it was limited; henceforth, language 2was to grow with no point of departure, no end and no promise. 


This takes us past a place where the word of the pope or of the bo0k is holy, or profound.  Aman breaking his word won’t reap metaphysical imbalance and be thrust from the garden.


free interplay of representations.


Chapter 3


I  Don Quixote is the hero of the same.  He is shaped like a letter and dedicated to a book which will make him a knight. The book is not so much his existence as his duty and he must consult it to know what to do.  He must verify the exploits of the book in reality.  His whole journey is a que3st for similitudes.  In the renaissance words lose and similitudes have become deceptive and verge upon the visionary or madness.  Poetics and madness are linked.


In part two he stops reading but others read of him.


Marks beginning of new and end of old


World is a book to be deciphered


His perspective which is of Resemblance and thus old is considered by the (CA) as madness--like poet who tries to seeks original text



II   Order


Descartes and Bacon gave empirical critique of resemblance

It  the privileged age of trope-l’oil painting, of the comic illusion, of the play that duplicates itself by representing another play; it is the age of the deceiving senses; it is the age in which the poetic dimension of language is defined by metaphor simile, and allegory.

(CA) dissmisses resemblance as a fundamental experience.


Bacon shows similitudes break down as one draws near and reappearing as we back off. they.  He calls similitude ‘idols’ of order wanted and shows some things are unique.  But he accepts them though they are made from perception (not innate).



Development of difference--establishment of mode of Order based on difference and comparison:  The two types are of measurement (which required an outside standard to compare to, and order which doesn’t.  Order laid down by thought not the world.  Then similitude or disimulatude can be determined by deduction from your model.


Truth by inference not from reality, but from your model.


new configuration structured by rationalism


Shift from resemblance to Serial connections (not circles of similitude)


So what makes science and modern thought possible? 

1) The sub situation of analysis for the hierarchy of analogies.  From now on each resemblance must be subjected to proof by comparison with a common unit or position in an order.    2) Things will now be enumerated (not just a categorical type that much can be assumed by deduction from (the rise of induction) (the world becomes InFINITE and a SERIES  3) Now via induction we can have certitude (not just increasing probability from successive confirmations)  4)  Drawing things together is now replaced by discriminating.  This is really in fruition in our social scene now.  5) since to know is to discriminate, history and science will become separated from one another.  History and words no longer give us truths, but opinions.    Truth comes via distinct perception which words may translate, but they are no longer beings themselves and become transparent and neutral.


General grammar, natural history, the analysis of wealth assumed the episteme of Western culture that there is a universal science of order.  The relation to Order is as essential to the classical age as the relation to interpretation was to the renaissance.  So the ordering of things by means of signs constitutes all empirical forms of knowledge as knowledge based upon identity and difference.


removed from being to representation


Tautological:  needless repetition of the same scene in different words.  A statement that is true because it provides for all logical possibilities.  Ex Either the world is on fire or it isn’t analysis between representations


Knowledge (verified by knowledge) breaks off kinship with divine (which always presupposed signs anterior to it in the form of a sign).  And knowledge is no longer for deciphering the Ancient words hidden similitudes, it is an instrument of analysis and combination and calculation.sign identified with dispersion not unity


Logic not resemblance


Table of signs


Chapter 4


Representation--everything standing for everything else.


all there is representation--very reductionistic world is all that is representable is the

fundamental task of (CA) is to name things and that name was there being--locus of ontology.


A grid of difference unlike Kant who wanted synthesis in (CA) Being rested in the representations, in the name basic problem of (CA) lay in the relation of name and order


Modern age is free of being from representation


Chapter 7


Claims switch to modern was a two phase process


representation had lost its ability to provide foundation


Kant posits the universal a priori categories


episteme allow certain human sciences to be elaborated--forms of expression which consciousness uses to understand world shifts are not transformations in subject but radical disjunctions


Utopias don't have language yet to critique--moore


Kepler has I and objective reference


voyages of discovery--bacon—outward discursive I v. 3rd person