Foucault and Historical Nominalism

in Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780226254708
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226254722 | DOI:
Foucault and Historical Nominalism

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This chapter discusses the features of Foucault's approach that serve to justify Veyne's characterization—namely, his nominalism. Foucault pushes to the extreme the nominalist proclivities of historians to attend to the singular and nonrepeatable. This tendency respects the empirical and suspects the abstract. It also inverts the received “causal” accounts in a Nietzschean move to free us from the tyranny of false causes and vague relationships, such as the concept of influence, so prevalent in the history of ideas. Nominalism leads him, for example, to claim that “power” as such does not exist; there are only individual instances of action on the action of others.

Keywords: Foucault; historical nominalism; Nietzschean move; false causes; vague relationships

Chapter.  6766 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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