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I find the people that think this way are themselves the ones who look to game systems

As if the observation matters, or says anything about the topic being discussed. Essentially boiling down to some sort of cheap ad-hominem.

However, in the overall hierarchy of how much I value people, I place the well-being of the people I love, and myself, above all the rest. And I'm not afraid to admit that.

I seriously doubt there will be any significant migration to Medicine Hat just for the free housing.

that's a fantastic idea. Send me an email with link if you ever do launch something like that.

If I get around to organizing such a thing, I suppose I'll throw together a quick single-page site, and share in on HN or something.

C is not my thing so a few years ago trying to sort out how a VM works, I created a VM in Ruby.

Practical? Not in the least. But, it was a good weekend's worth of fun.



Talk to any military brat. I was in 11 schools by 10th grade so I learned a whole different set of lessons from the vast majority of my "civilian" peers.


Anyone with formal or informal studies in critical theory will be well aware of Focault.

Everyone else should get up to speed.


> Everyone else should get up to speed.

Why? Admittedly, everything I know (not much!) about critical theory comes from hearing people talk about critical theory, and not from first sources, but I don't see why it's more compelling than philosophy in general?

So, really, I'm posing that question completely seriously. Why should I study critical theory in general, or Focault in particular? Keep in mind it's not "Why should I spend time studying critical theory rather than spend time doing nothing", it's "Why should I spend time studying critical theory rather than some other philosophy/science/technology/art?"


One example of where Foucault would be useful to technologists in particular is in understanding the role of discourses in perpetuating gender inequalities in technology.

Foucault talked about how we reinforce power relations through the internalization and mobilization of discourse. For Foucault, power is best understood by studying our everyday interactions, instead of examining decrees from those in authority. Power affects us so deeply that we often don't realize how our speech and actions reinforce systems of inequality. Working in software, I see exclusionary comments at least on a weekly basis that almost slip under the radar as being innocuous until you realize that this is exactly the form of power that Foucault analyzes in his studies.

So to answer your question, assuming since you're posting in HN that you're in the software field, you may be interested in reading Foucault if you're interested in obtaining additional analytical tools to understand and improve the currently horrible, exclusionary system that permeates the software world.

As a disclaimer, I'm not saying that Foucault is the only way to understand this phenomenon, nor even necessarily the best. Just trying to point out some concrete ways in which his concepts may be useful in certain scenarios.


If one is still able to use the framing of "inequality" and "exclusion" then it seems as if Foucault hasn't helped much.

"Gender" is a system of resource extraction. Women are not "excluded" in tech and elsewhere, they are literally defined as resources, as objects that have and produce value. Women are not "unequal" -- this implies that within the system of gender, both women and men are people who simply don't have the exact same capital. But men do not view women as people under gender. See Beatrix Campbell's "End of Equality". [0]

It is ultimately impossible to understand any microcosm of oppression through individualism. Women and men are social classes, with "gender" being the name referring to the process of securing class:Men's interests as a whole. Individual anti-woman comments do not "reinforce" "inequality", they are symptoms of gender itself. Noel Ignatiev's essay "The Point Is Not To Interpret Whiteness But To To Abolish It" responds to attempts to understand oppression with individualist ideologies [1]:

> Just as the capitalist system is not a capitalist plot, so racial oppression is not the work of "racists." It is maintained by the principal institutions of society, including the schools (which define "excellence"), the labor market (which defines "employment"), the legal system (which defines "crime"), the welfare system (which defines "poverty"), the medical industry (which defines "health"), and the family (which defines "kinship"). Many of these institutions are administered by people who would be offended if accused of complicity with racial oppression. It is reinforced by reform programs that address problems traditionally of concern to the "left" - for example, federal housing loan guarantees. The simple fact is that the public schools and the welfare departments are doing more harm to black children than all the "racist" groups combined.

[0] http://www.troubleandstrife.org/2014/04/the-end-of-equality/

[1] http://racetraitor.org/abolishthepoint.html


As a jew posting on race traitor, maybe he should focus on abolishing the jewish race rather than the white race. Let's replace white with jew in a few choice quotes shall we?

"Now that Jewish Studies has become an academic industry, with its own dissertation mill, conference, publications, and no doubt soon its junior faculty, it is time for the abolitionists to declare where they stand in relation to it. Abolitionism is first of all a political project: the abolitionists study Jewishness in order to abolish it. "

"We at Race Traitor, the journal with which I am associated, have asked some of those who think Jewishness contains positive elements to indicate what they are. We are still waiting for an answer. Until we get one, we will take our stand with David Roediger, who has insisted that Jewishness is not merely oppressive and false, it is nothing but oppressive and false. As James Baldwin said, 'So long as you think you are a jew, there is no hope for you.'"

"The jewish race is neither a biological nor a cultural formation; it is a strategy for securing to some an advantage in a competitive society. "

"The jewish club does not require that all members be strong advocates of jewish supremacy, merely that they defer to the prejudices of others."


There's actually an article about the Jewish race in the collected book version (also called Race Traitor) by a different author, so...


The difficulty with these claims is that nowhere is there a counter-example to any of the supposed systems of oppression that keep us in thrall. It is a purely utopian analysis that rest on the false belief that humans can be free of the structure that various discourses impose on our relations.

By focusing the analysis on the supposed binary oppositions within and between discursive identities, a great deal of practical, compassionate, utility is lost for the sake of smashing global industrial capitalism with the unrealizable dream of replacing it with some kind of utopian society.


"utility is lost for the sake of smashing global industrial capitalism with the unrealizable dream of replacing it with some kind of utopian society."

I wasn't really saying anything about capitalism. Analysis of gender, at least, as a system of resource extraction is possible without an axiom of the necessity of the abolition of global capitalism.


Awareness is the first step and all that. It is absolutely not utopian because there is no cosmic requirement to supply a solution, which by the way is an authoritarian interpretation of the use of Foucault's analyses. There is also no implication that we can be free of discursive relations, and describing problematic (or even historical) aspects of human behavior toward one another does not saddle him with a responsibility to solve them.

In short, you appear to be rebuking Foucault for not doing something he wasn't trying to do anyway. I mean, his words remain, so any utility hasn't been lost and remains for any of us to pick up and...use. So, if you think he didn't take it far enough, feel free to take it where you think it should go!


Well, Foucault's work is about a lot of things, but here's one that should certainly interest technologists: what is power? How does it affect us? What does it do to shape societies? Etc.

Critical theory in general? Well, it depends on what you're trying to get out of your time with philosophy. I'm particularly interested in technology's affect on humans, so something like critical theory gives me useful intellectual tools. But if the human side of things doesn't appeal to you, you may not particularly care.


And if that is an interesting topic for a technologist than the work of Bernard Stiegler is fairly essential to seeing where continental thinking seems to be headed. http://www.amazon.com/New-Critique-Political-Economy/dp/0745...


I took classes in literary criticism during college, and I think they have given me mental habits and tools that have served me very well.

Essentially, it helps me see the hidden layer under what people say and (especially) write--the influences, desires, assumptions, etc. that create differences in how each person thinks and communicates.

This has been helpful as I have moved into a management role. Office politics often are the end result of unspoken agendas and wishes of coworkers. Critical theory helps infer those from the seemingly straightforward text of emails and what people say in conversation.

What people want and what they say are often two different things. Engineers and programmers, used to working with systems whose behaviors are explicitly and objectively defined, can find this frustrating. My opinion, it is reality, so might as well deal with it. I've found critical theory helpful in that.


One application would be the deconstruction of the concept of "appropriateness" in tech. Many people hold an essentialist view, that for example, sexual comments are inappropriate in a professional setting. But a closer examinations shows that sexual comments are not always viewed as inappropriate, if they are seen as coming from a person who has proven they hold progressive political views, or are seen as furthering a progressive agenda.

Therefore, two men giggling about dongles is viewed as inappropriate[0], while the hackathon "Stupid Shit No One Needs and Terrible Ideas" was widely lauded on HN in spite of containing body shaming[1] and explicit sexual content. The latter was not considered inappropriate because it was critical of tech culture, which is seen as being dominated by White males, and therefore deserving of highly negative satire.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_vigilantism#PyCon_Dong...

[1] http://www.stupidhackathon.com/ see "Intellectual Babes Calendar"


> Why should I study critical theory in general, or Focault in particular?

You should study Foucault to better see the prisons you live in. Foucault is postmodernist critical theory. Plain old Critical Theory you should study to understand how people today are subtly manipulated (the Hegelian dialectic is a good start). This is the tool that is systematically applied by our overlords to steer public perception.


The American (anglosaxon?) categorization of poststructuralist philosophy (like Foucault or Butler) as critical theory is curious to (mildly educated) European readers. The term was coined by Horkeimer, Adorno, Lukačs and other intellectuals around the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. Those were all hardcore Hegelians (and Marxists more or less). Their ideas regarding Objectiveness, History or Truth are pretty much the contrary to what postmodern philosophy is suggesting. In fact as a postmarxist Foucault was revolting against the dominance of Hegelian thinking.


Every one of these attempts to categorize thinkers should have double-sized, bolded quotation marks around it. At best, some thinkers in some periods of their writing bear a family resemblance to one another.

"Critical theory" in English usually seems to mean "Not analytic philosophy" without the stigmatism or demonymism that "continental philosophy" has.


> is curious to (mildly educated) European readers.

I don't think it has to do with Europe, I think it has to do with the fact that the categories are fuzzy and unless you _really_ care about this stuff, you just let it go.

I almost replied below when it was mentioned that Foucault was "postmodern," but really, it's just not that important, in the end.


true, but i still think the case is special for the US: While in europe (germany at least) Critical Theory and Poststructuralism are pretty much antagonist concepts it seems to be bundled in the US as Continental/Critical Theory and that really means: everything but Analytical Philosophy.


I've never been able to understand a word of him. I've seen the famous Chomsky/Foucault debate. I understood Chomsky perfectly well. Many people have informed me that Foucault completely bested him. I couldn't tell because I had no idea what the heck he was saying.


The Chomsky-Foucault Debate in 5 seconds:



Haha this is the video version of what people tell me happened. I still can't confirm for myself.


For anyone who hasn't watched the actual, full video of the debate, you should do so. Watching them argue in two languages at the same time is super fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wfNl2L0Gf8

Okay, here's what the video is saying, in slightly-longer form. The exchange in the video is basically Chomsky saying "human nature" and Foucault laughing.

This gets at the heart of the hour-long debate: do humans have some sort of nature? Foucault, and philosophers like him, think that the idea of 'human nature' is complete and utter garbage. So when Chomsky admits that his position boils down to an appeal of human nature, Foucault just laughs at him.

It's a great moment that really highlights the whole thing. I love it.


Thank you for this link; I've been meaning to watch this debate a long time but have never got around to it. I heard a rumor about how Foucault was paid years ago and didn't believe it, but according to at least one biography [1] it's apparently true! "Unbeknownst to Chomsky, Foucault had received, in partial payment for his appearance, a large chunk of hashish, which for months afterwards, Foucault and his Parisian friends would jokingly refer to as the 'Chomsky hash.'"

[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=BODdpZCvvrQC&lpg=PA201&ots...


Any insight into why they think the concept of human nature is bunk? How are they defining human nature in the context of their debate?


Much of Foucault's work is different from projects that you would find in thinkers like Plato or Kant. Kant for example treats cognition as the product of certain universal categories that exist apriori. Chomsky is heavily influenced by this sort of thinking, and for both Kant and Chomsky the product of starting from those premises tends to be an essentialist view of human nature.

Rather than starting with axioms that lead to a sort of universal knowledge, Foucault did studies that could be considered more sociological in nature to show how relations of power affect the way that we experience ourselves and others, i.e., how it fashions our subjectivity. This is what he terms his "archaeological" method in articles like "What is Enlightenment?" http://foucault.info/documents/whatisenlightenment/foucault..... Examples of these studies include his works Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality.

At the very least, Foucault's studies show how some of the most significant ways in which we experience the world and ourselves are socially constructed, rather than essential. Identity then becomes political, rather than something that is distinctly our own. In some of his work, he also directly takes on thinkers like Kant in an attempt to show their work as historically situated rather than universal.


>How are they defining human nature in the context of their debate?

That's what Foucault wants to know.


And from my little understanding, because they don't believe there's such thing as a human nature, since society, and other things from our surrounding affect us, and the "nature" could change in a different context, which would imply it isn't some kind of force behind us.


There's a lot of different ways to tackle this problem, obviously, so I'll just point you in one of many directions. You'd have to consult the specific thinker's works to get their exact takes.

Okay, so the concept of 'human nature' in general needs some more definition, like you've said. Here's maybe a better phrasing of the problem: "Do humans have some sort of _innate_ properties that are shared amongst all humans?" This phrasing calls back to an old debate in philosophy: essentialism. This is a question of ontology, in other words, what kinds of things are there in the world, and how do we categorize them?

An essentialist takes the position that we can form categories of things by defining some set of properties, and then any entity which has those properties is one of those things. In other words, let's say something like "You're a human as long as you have a name." This is a position which is essentialist. And that might be a workable definition.

A non-essentialist may come along and challenge your ontology, though. "Ships also have names, but they are clearly not human." You may agree with this, and so you need to revise your set of properties. "Humans are things that have names, and walk on two legs." The non-essentialist may respond, "birds have names, and when they walk, they use two legs. Your ontology is incorrect.

You see where this is going. Those who take a position against essentialism claim that this approach to categorization is a folly. It's fundamentally broken.. To give you a counterpoint, I generally agree with a process philosophy, which means that I equate identity with _doing_, not with _being_. An example of a process philosopher's standpoint on ontology: "You're a Rubyist if you write Ruby code." This kind of categorization is more useful, because over time, my identity can change. I might be a Rubyist for a while, but at some point, I wasn't. And I might stop being one in the future, too. An approached based on do-ing includes things like a time component that an essentialist position never can.

So, returning to the original question, no, the question of an inherent nature doesn't make any sense, and therefore, neither does 'human nature'. So where do we go from there? Well, any claim that's reliant on an appeal to human nature is incorrect. For example, "Humans are inherently greedy."

Anyway, that's a hastily-typed overview of a concept in a HN comment, but hopefully that helps you get the gist of it.


How is that different than arguing over definitions?

In particular, delineating humans has the same problems as separating any species. You can have a group B that can interbreed with A and C, but A and C can't. Has anything useful come out of getting worked up over what to call species A, B, and C?


> In particular, delineating humans has the same problems as separating any species. You can have a group B that can interbreed with A and C, but A and C can't. Has anything useful come out of getting worked up over what to call species A, B, and C?

That assertion is a good illustration of the problem some Continental philosophers tried to address - what is a "species" and how is it defined? It's an arbitrary labeling we put on a collection of individuals that we perceive to have similarities.

This kind of thinking is exactly what lead Chomsky into the erroneous theories of Universal Grammar and the Language Acquisition Device. Studying real neurons in actual brains is what got linguistics out of the generative grammar dead-end: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistics_Wars


> How is that different than arguing over definitions?

Definitions are very important. For example, one of the defining movements from second to third wave feminism was a move from essentialism. Second-wave essentialism couldn't handle the 1% of intersex people, for example, or the existence of trans individuals. (this is of course not the only thing that separates them, just one example)

These kinds of questions are full of real-world implications. This stuff matters when it comes down to questions like healthcare, and if some procedure is covered, for example. Any law which affects people based on some criteria. That's a lot of laws.

> In particular, delineating humans has the same problems as separating any species.

Absolutely, which is an other example of where this issue raises its head. Ontology is very relevant to many, many fields.


"Second-wave essentialism couldn't handle the 1% of intersex people, for example, or the existence of trans individuals."

What a dishonest attempt at a characterization. You took the opporunity of the readers' unfamiliarity with a topic to interject your own subjective and vague opinion ("Second-wave essentiallism couldn't handle" -- what function does this phrase even serve beyond emotional release for the writer? What does it even mean?), without providing any links or citations to the extensive existing material that exists.

If you valued actual discourse, you would link to some article like Michelle Goldberg's "What is a Woman?"[0] in the New Yorker to provide some sort of context on the conflicting ideas of feminism and queer theory. But time and time again my fellow men who cheerlead for queer theory and identity politics bring nothing to the table but opportunistic, ingenuine rhetoric bordering on non-sequitur. I don't even need to claim anything about second-wave or modern radical feminists -- the transparently anti-intellectual liberal male digs his own grave.

[0] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2


As always, everything is presented at a certain level of abstraction. I was alluding to TERFs, whose 'e' stands for 'exclusionary,' ie, they exclude trans women from their idea of 'woman.' As with any summary, it of course glosses over details, and is clearly biased by who is speaking. It seems a bit strange to have to state that in a thread about Foucault. You are totally correct that my bias lies with queer theory.


I did understand who you were alluding to. But for those unfamiliar, are you implying that modern and historical feminists who have a conception of the oppression of women that you and some people in Queer Theroy and some tumblr users disagree with, coined the name "TERF", rather than the latter group? An uninformed reader would possibly take away that some number of feminists actually, non-ironically, take on the label "TERF". In my time in reading dozens of writers on these issues, which has been at least a year now, I've never seen this. So hopefully that wasn't the implication.

If one's confidence in one's own bias is such that one can inject it into discourse without feeling the need to cite any material which asserts ideas which they are biased "against" ("Second-wave essentiallism", whatever that entails), or even import material supporting their own claims, would one not mind if another was to comment with some reading material for those who may be interested in this thread? For example, the 2013 letter "Forbidden Discourse: The Silencing of Feminist Criticism of 'Gender'" written by 37 second-wave and modern radical feminists [0], or the essay "SSCAB/DSCAB: Reconsidering the Conversation" written by a black radical feminist [1], or glosswitch's "Beauty and the cis" [2]? Surely it shouldn't change anything to point out that these writings exist.

[0] reprinted here: https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/authenticity-...

[1] https://bmgnedra.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/sscabdscab-reframi...

[2] http://glosswatch.com/2014/04/20/beauty-and-the-cis/


> rather than the latter group?

I didn't make any claims about the origin of the term. Your history is accurate, to my knowledge.

> without feeling the need to cite any material

This isn't a dissertation. It's HN. Not every last thing needs a citation.

And no, I don't 'mind' at all. I'm very sympathetic to many arguments made here. People should read second-wave stuff. I just come down on a different side of them, personally.


If there's no human nature, what keeps you from being a dog?


From what angle? Is this question "How do we differentiate between species" or "what stops us from killing anyone" or "what makes human life more valuable, if it even is, than an animal's?"


People believe there's a dog-nature, just as much as they believe there's a human-nature. Regardless of the philosophical position they profess.

(It is part of our nature to have constraints keeping us from being dogs. Anyone who wishes to prove otherwise is welcome to become a dog.)

In your argument against human nature, you stated: "An essentialist takes the position that we can form categories of things by defining some set of properties". But that's seems a strawman definition in this context, because no one can even define a chair. Much less a human. Fortunately, people who believe in the concept of human nature (virtually everyone) don't need to sit around making futile constructivist definitions.


> Anyone who wishes to prove otherwise is welcome to become a dog.

Saying that there's no essential dog-nature does not inherently imply that one can become a dog.

> (virtually everyone)

Yes, Plato and Aristotle were essentialists, and you can't possibly over-state their influence on Western thought. But, I would argue that your 'everyone' includes many non-philosphers, who haven't necessarily considered this problem in the depth that philosophers have. That doesn't mean that essentialism is disproven or anything! But rightfully, in my mind anyway, a number of schools of thought take issue with it, just like any other position.

That said, actually, it depends on who you're talking to.

> that's seems a strawman definition in this context

It's not! That's the problem itself: you're absolutely right that defining what is a chair and what is human is very difficult.


You could approach the problem from the opposite direction. How do you define human nature, and what evidence do you put in favor of that definition and your assertions about it?


There's the entire history of ethology.

It's sad that Foucault laughs at it, because it's essentially an argument by authority (his own) and not based on anything with scientific substance.

Of course if you pretend that "Science is always a power play" you can say whatever you want, because you've elevated your opinion to a position above criticism.

Oddly enough, this is a common ploy used by cult leaders.

My disdain for the pomo and Crit Theory people has no limits - because while academics have persuaded themselves that Foucault etc are geniuses who offered the humanities profound insights into culture and power etc, they've also been completely marginalised and screwed over by neo-capitalism, and have offered no useful resistance to it.

Somehow I can't help wondering if the two are related - because the whole nub of Critical Theory is the utterly mistaken assumption that deconstruction and tentative subjectivity have political power, when in fact they're the opposite of political power, and offer neither a useful insight into how power really works, nor any effective strategy for resisting its excesses.


I'm sorry that you ineptly pin the blame on the victim re: neo-capitalism.

What you call "the history of ethology" hopefully comprises the blunders that at different points in history "the scientific establishment" made regarding the "nature" of a) black men, b) women, c) gay people, d) irish people, e) jewish people, f)... you get the idea.

These observations of "animal behavior" are both extremely unsophisticated, always failing to control for critical variables, and very tied up to what the society of the day wants the conclusions to be.

Even today, ignorant people go around talking about how "human nature is selfish". I think Foucualt's contributions were pretty great re: this precise discussion we're having over here. Certainly more important than the vast majority of ethological work out there.

If you want to challenge me on this, just answer my question: What is human nature, and what do you claim to know about it in 2015?


Do you think human nature might consistently include an interest in power, and a not-entirely-unrelated interest in sex?

Are you going to try to explain the remarkable consistency of these interests across all political systems and historical periods as a purely political phenomenon?

If so, why are there clearly analogous interests in many primates and other animals?

I say you're wrong - and challenge you to provide solid observational evidence to prove conclusively that social and political traditions generate these interests.


> Do you think human nature might consistently include an interest in power, and a not-entirely-unrelated interest in sex?

No, I do not think so. There are vast, vast numbers of people who opt to teach and nurse instead of gunning for leadership, who opt to do salaried engineering instead of management, and I don't see why the latter in each case have a better claim on our "nature" as a species.

What do you mean by "interest in sex"? Human nature seems to also have an "interest in food", that in places like america is exacerbated into an obesity epidemic, but doesn't seem to say anything super meaningful about our relationship to eating. Isaac Newton died a virgin, I guess he wasn't human? Gay men have no interest in reproduction... is their humanity in question?

You should read stuff like UBC's "WEIRD" study, or how women were believed to have bigger sexual appetite than men at various places in time, before going off about observations "across all political systems and historical periods".

You seem to be obliquely pushing some notion that we are more dominant than cooperative, which is pretty ignorant in a thread about Foucault and Chomsky.


> Human nature seems to also have an "interest in food"

Indeed. And sex. And status in herd hierarchies.

That was my point. But it doesn't stop there. I'd also include symbolic abstraction, myth-making and narrative logic (as an efficient but flawed heuristic for passing on knowledge), persistent shared memory, embodied metaphors as per Lakoff - and so on.

It seems to me - and maybe to a lot of the Internet - that humans spend a lot of time and energy on these things.

Other species spend a lot of time on some of them, but not all of them.

There may be a reason for the difference.

So I have issues with the suggestion that they're always evidence of pathological socialisation - or that writing impenetrable books and laughing at and condescending to anyone who disagrees with their content is likely to make that socialisation any less pathological, where it does exist.


> It's sad that Foucault laughs at it, because it's essentially an argument by authority (his own) and not based on anything with scientific substance.

> Of course if you pretend that "Science is always a power play" you can say whatever you want, because you've elevated your opinion to a position above criticism.

Or at least to a position where science is not a valid source of criticism.

If I understand correctly, poststructuralists say that all truth claims are about power, and only that, because objective truth cannot ever be determined. That leaves them free to make ever-more-blatant power plays in their own claims.


This is becoming a widely held belief within the humanities via Accelerationism[1]. If anybody's interested, I know folks in the Bay Area organizing events around these ideas.

[1] http://criticallegalthinking.com/2013/05/14/accelerate-manif...


Perhaps you understand English better than French? You may not have noticed, but upon rewatching the video, my best guess is that Chomsky was speaking English and Foucault may have been speaking French. This may have made Foucault marginally more difficult to follow...

Joking aside, without taking away from Chomsky, at least in places I found Foucault surprisingly clear:

  [O]ne of the tasks that seems immediate and urgent to me, 
  over and above anything else, is this: that we should 
  indicate and show up, even where they are hidden, all the 
  relationships of political power which actually control the 
  social body and oppress or repress it.

  What I want to say is this: it is the custom, at least in 
  European society, to consider that power is localised in 
  the hands of the government and that it is exercised 
  through a certain number of particular institutions, such 
  as the administration, the police, the army, and the 
  apparatus of the state. One knows that all these 
  institutions are made to elaborate and to transmit a 
  certain number of decisions, in the name of the nation or 
  of the state, to have them applied and to punish those who 
  don't obey. But I believe that political power also 
  exercises itself through the mediation of a certain number 
  of institutions which look as if they have nothing in 
  common with the political power, and as if they are 
  independent of it, while they are not.

  One knows this in relation to the family; and one knows 
  that the university and in a general way, all teaching 
  systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are 
  made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to 
  exclude the instruments of power of another social class.

  Institutions of knowledge, of foresight and care, such as 
  medicine, also help to support the political power. It's 
  also obvious, even to the point of scandal, in certain 
  cases related to psychiatry.

  It seems to me that the real political task in a society 
  such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, 
  which appear to be both neutral and independent; to 
  criticise and attack them in such a manner that the 
  political violence which has always exercised itself 
  obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can 
  fight against them.

  This critique and this fight seem essential to me for 
  different reasons: firstly, because political power goes 
  much deeper than one suspects; there are centres and 
  invisible, little-known points of support; its true 
  resistance, its true solidity is perhaps where one doesn't 
  expect it. Probably it's insufficient to say that behind 
  the governments, behind the apparatus of the State, there 
  is the dominant class; one must locate the point of 
  activity, the places and forms in which its domination is 
  exercised. And because this domination is not simply the  
  expression in political terms of economic exploitation, it 
  is its instrument and, to a large extent, the condition 
  which makes it possible; the suppression of the one is 
  achieved through the exhaustive discernment of the other. 

  Well, if one fails to recognise these points of support of 
  class power, one risks allowing them to continue to exist; 
  and to see this class power reconstitute itself even after 
  an apparent revolutionary process.

Foucault believes that seemingly neutral institutions such as education and medicine act to preserve the power of one social class over another. While it's clear how the police and military maintain authority, it's less clear how topics like constant surveillance and attitudes toward sexuality would tilt the playing field. Foucault's philosophy offers a framework to analyze these different forms of power based on their effect rather than their apparent mechanism.


Which of his books or writings would I turn to if I want to hear him expound upon this in more detail (and if possible in an English translation of his own).


_History of Human Sexuality, Volume I_, probably. Similar stuff in _Discipline & Punish_ and his lecture series _Society Must Be Defended_


Very interesting. But...

> One knows this in relation to the family; and one knows that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class.

Wasn't Foucault a professor? He just, essentially, refuted himself (because he's part of that teaching system, which appears to disseminate knowledge, and is really about maintaining a certain social class in power).


You pass over the word "simply" there: Foucault doesn't mean that universities do not disseminate knowledge, but that they do not _only_ disseminate knowledge, they also maintain a certain class system. I don't think he would exempt himself from that, but poststructuralism is not usually interested in the actions of individuals as much as the way societies are structured (such as, for example, having universities which are organized in certain ways).


Right, but that still leaves Foucault as part of that system. It's a biased system, not to be taken at face value or as objectively committed to truth as it appears or claims to be. But that applies to Foucault and his thought and teaching as much as it does to the rest of what the universities teach.


This is not profound. Human activity is imperfect. That's the case whether the human in question is a famous tenured professor or a hermit on a mountaintop. Perhaps politicians ought to pretend infallibility, but serious thinkers shouldn't. It's possible that we must consider many ideas that aren't true in any objective sense, in order to get closer to the the truth ourselves.


Foucault and other French Postmodern Philosophers are sometimes hard going. Foucault came up with lots of interesting ideas. My favourite is one of his concepts on power and knowledge. The idea is that one way the powerless can gain power is by creating knowledge, even in small bits. Twitter is probably proof of this.


I love it when debate gets reduced to someone creating a troll account ( 'railsbadruby' account is 48 min old as I write this ) and badmouthing.

Is this what HN discourse has come to?


Actually a good testing suite fixes that issue. It's probably the most bogus "issue" strong type addicts bring up.


The only thing better than having tests is not needing tests. That's what a robust type system gives you.

Type systems don't eliminate all testing, but they do eliminate a large swath of possible errors that need to be tested for, like the one that has (had?) been afflicting Sinatra.


You might want to watch this talk for some data on this subject: https://vimeo.com/74354480

"Some programming language theorists would have us believe that the one true path to working systems lies in powerful and expressive type systems which allow us to encode rich constraints into programs at the time they are created. If these academic computer scientists would get out more, they would soon discover an increasing incidence of software developed in languages such a Python, Ruby and Clojure which use dynamic, albeit strong, type systems. They would probably be surprised to find that much of this software—in spite of their well-founded type-theoretic hubris—actually works, and is indeed reliable out of all proportion to their expectations."


As someone who worked with Ruby since ~1.8.1, has written a ridiculous amount of OSS Ruby and now works mostly in Scala, this is the exact opposite of my experience.

YMMV, but I've never seen the Ruby project that didn't suffer from stupid bugs even the most basic type system would have caught.

One of the biggest advantage of type-systems for me is that they don't suffer from No True Scotsman. If you don't have a test that covered this bug, people are happy to tell you you're doing it wrong. The type-system doesn't have that problem. It doesn't "rot". It expresses only what you tell it to. It enforces maintenance and rigor in a way that tests, as non-integral code, fundamentally can't.

But that's just my opinion man.


What's your thought on something like contracts or facebook's flow (for js) ?


I'm not a programming language theorist or in any sort of functional-programming-static-type-system ivory tower – I just want to catch more bugs prior to runtime without needing to write tedious mechanical tests of method contracts. I find good type checking insanely refreshing. I find that I need fewer tests, they are easier to write, and they test more essential attributes of the program.

I've written lots of useful stuff in Python and Ruby, but I've also sunk lots of time into tests that I would have preferred not to need to write.


I can't watch because no subtitles, but man that intro is condescending. Not saying that academics are completely innocent either, but maybe if the description focused more on the substance of the data, it wouldn't seem like the smugness was a cover-up for trying to rationalize their choice of language.

Anyway, I'm no PL theorist, only a schlub that's a better programmer because of ML. Yeah yeah, sample size of one...


The politest put down ever?


This tho: Orenitram won't be available for sale for about six months, the company said, and its exact price hasn't been determined either. But it will be very expensive, about $150,000 a year, according to an estimate by Dr. Mark Schoenebaum, an industry analyst with ISI.

$150k/yr? Is that really necessary?


yes, it needs to cover the cost in development and getting it through approval.

however, this also establishes a market - a competitor will now either come with something cheaper or something better (for the same or higher price).

same thing is happening with Hep-C, which is now curable (boo, bad pharma). initial drug was/is super expensive, record profits for the company. every single contender is driving the price down. and there contenders as the market has been proven.

this is the capitalist system at work, in full glory. even with patents in play. amazing shit right there.


Yes. The R/D is expensive and there are many more failed drugs than those that make it to market.


I wish I could upvote this response more than once.



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