The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

Don Ihde

Instrumental Realism:

The Interface between Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Technology

II. The New Philosophy of Science

Indiana University Press

Bloomington, 1991 11-44

The new philosophy of science arises, in part, out of explicit dissatisfaction with the disembodied and essentially idealistic and abstract notion of science often found within the dominant traditions of the old philosophy of science.

The new philosophy of science owes its emergence to a number of thinkers - or perhaps equally, to a change in perspective which arose independently in many quarters.  I have already suggested that the shift which occurred to create the new philosophy of science had as one of its components a certain taste for the concrete embodiments of science.  Again, limiting mention first to Anglo-American sources, one may note the impact of Karl Popper and Imre Lakatosz, who resituated science within its community of mutually interested persons, while focusing upon the emergence and development of science.  The work of Stephen Toulmin should be noted as well.  One might also mention the important work of Michael Polanyi, who introduced the notion of tacit knowledge to the traditions of the philosophy of science.  Tacit knowledge was clearly an appreciation of one dimension of praxis and perception, a kind of “bodily knowledge” which plays a subterranean role even in science and which gradually began to be appreciated by some philosophers of science.  But most scholars would surely agree that in the Anglo-American traditions, the person who most gave form to the new shape of philosophy of science was Thomas Kuhn. [1]

I do not wish to go over the same ground already well trod since the publication of The Structure of Scientific Revolution (1962). The arguments and counterattacks, the extensions and revisions, have been many.  But I shall take a different approach. I shall not address the mainline reaction, which accused Kuhn of both reducing science to a sociology of science and of exhibiting a presumed irrationalism, which arose from his shift of emphasis on discovery from its previously “purely” rational basis in forms of reasoning.  Rather, what I see happening in Kuhn is the hint at a different model of interpreting science, a model which includes at least perceptual and, insofar as Kuhn is historically sensitive, praxical features often left out of standard accounts.

At the same time, I want to resituate Kuhn with respect to his


proximity, probably unknowingly on his part, to phenomenology.  My use of perception is closest to Merleau-Ponty’s in the sense that sensory, or bodily, perception is always understood to be situated within a kind of cultural or contextual perception.  Thus, while Kuhn, in a more Wittgensteinian sense, may often be using perception metaphorically as a kind of “intellectual” perception, here I am noting that what is sometimes taken as metaphorical is more than metaphorical.

Kuhn does not stand alone in what I shall describe as the praxis-perception model implicit in the new philosophy of science.  Until recently, beyond the gaze of many philosophers, there was a parallel development of an amazingly similar impact made upon the human sciences by the work of the late French intellectual historian-philosopher Michel Foucault.  His tutor, usually unmentioned but all-too-clearly visible in his very invisibility, was Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the philosopher of perception par excellence.  In turn, Merleau-Ponty draws from an even older development of a praxis-perception model of interpretation outlined in the work of the later Husserl.  I shall examine this parallelism.

This examination will take the shape of a chronologically discontinuous exposition which, while beginning with Kuhn, then reverts to an earlier period beginning with Husserl and leading back up to Kuhn’s contemporary, Michel Foucault.  I do this first with respect to philosophy of science but with deliberate focus upon the often indirect roles of technology in these contexts.

First the Kuhnian revolution: The critical, or negative, thrust of Kuhn’s reinterpretation of scientific development was immediately felt.  It could easily be construed as a direct attack upon the analytic-positivistic-nomological model of science.  For Kuhn, the laws of science, the rules of operation, the system of induction and deduction - while in no way ignored or rejected - were undercut as foundational.  More basic to the operation of science was a paradigm.  In effect, what Kuhn’s negative attack accomplished was an inversion of priorities, making the nomological model of science derivative.

Kuhn first described his notion of paradigm in a highly general form, stating that “a paradigm is an accepted model or pattern” which guides the development of normal science.  At first, it might be thought that such a model was merely the particular arrangement of parts of a theory, itself a kind of higher order, but perhaps an implicit “rule.”

In this standard example, the paradigm functions by permitting the replication of examples any one of which could in principle serve to replace it.  In a science... a paradigm is rarely an object for replication.  Instead, like the accepted judicial decision in common law, it is an object for further articulation and specification under new or more stringent conditions. [2]


But a paradigm is presupposed by the operations of normal science, which is to say that what constitutes the paradigm is also more basic as a condition of the possibility for normal science.  Laws, rules, the nomological model become not founding, but founded.  “Perhaps it is not apparent that a paradigm is prerequisite to the discovery of laws ...,” [3] but the relation is soon made explicit.  “Rules, I suggest, derive from paradigms, but paradigms can guide research even in the absence of rules.” [4]   Rules become twice secondary.  Paradigms are the very means by which theory can operate: “Paradigms provide all phenomena except anomalies with a theory-determined place in the scientist’s field of vision.” [5]  They are ultimately the ground of normal science itself: “Without commitment to a paradigm there could be no normal science.” [6]

And while recognizing that normal science is also the dominant way in which science operates, it too is inverted with respect to its grounds.  Revolutionary science, which occurs through a paradigm shift, is more basic to scientific development or advancement.  Normal science, such as that portrayed in the textbooks - or equivalently, by the nomological model - is sedimented science.  It is carrying out the refinements and extensions of some previously adapted paradigm.

One can immediately see why, in its critical dimension, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions became controversial.  In a subtle sense, however, the book became its own revolutionary fulfillment, itself a paradigm shift in the interpretation of science - so much so that today its perspective is itself virtually “normal.”  In fact, the response within large segments of the scientific community was such that the very language of Kuhn began to be used by scientists in their self-interpretations.

However, the established philosophy of science community was less enthusiastic.  Kuhn was frequently dismissed as a mere “sociologist of knowledge,” or worse, an irrationalist, since his model of scientific change clearly included factors other than sheer rational calculations or logical connections.  Thus, even though adapted by a now sizeable younger generation of both historians and philosophers of science, the persistence of the old philosophy of science remains.  Philosophies, in my estimation, rarely die, even if refuted or undercut.  More likely, they either go underground - reluctantly yielding even the smallest terrain - or, more frequently, resuscitate themselves in a new guise.  I even suspect that the enduring, institutional aspects of philosophy are not that different from what happens in other forms of human industry.  The historian Edward Constant once observed that in the transition from piston-engined to turbojet aircraft:

Old communities and traditions virtually never give birth to radically new


technologies.  No manufacturer of piston aircraft engines invented or independently developed a turbo-jet.  No designer of conventional reciprocating steam engines invented a steam turbine, no manufacturer of steam locomotives independently developed diesel engines.  In the case of both firms and individuals, community practice defines a cognitive universe that inhibits recognition of radical alternatives to conventional practice. [7]

This observation on industry appears to me to apply equally well to philosophical establishments where the development of new fields or approaches is concerned!

The critique, however, is only the negative side of the new philosophy of science.  Its positive side is the emergence of what I shall call a perceptual model of interpretation.  Kuhn himself makes this point repeatedly:

Examining the record of past research from the vantage of contemporary historiography, the historian of science may be tempted to exclaim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them.  Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places.  Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. [8]

Kuhn characterizes this specifically as a way of seeing.  It is what I shall call, in this case, an example of structured macroperception.  Kuhn astutely. recognized that phenomena may be seen with different selectivities - selectivities which call into question whether the thing seen is similar in any way to that which was previously seen.  His specific metaphor for such changes was the gestalt shift, such as occurs with ambiguous pictures (as with Wittgenstein’s duck/rabbit; indeed, Wittgenstein is an important figure in Kuhn’s background).

Kuhn repeatedly gives examples of such shifts, emphasizing radical discontinuities implied in such gestalt shifts.  For example, a minor shift concerning stars and planets occurred between 1690 and 1781.  Uranus was first identified as a star; then, after a switch of interpretation, as a planet.  There followed the identification of numerous astronomical phenomena as planets rather than stars, to the extent that twenty were identified! [9]  But much more telling as a shift of vision is the following case:

During the seventeenth century, when their research was guided by one or another effluvium theory, electricians repeatedly saw chaff particles rebound from, or fall off, the electrified bodies that had attracted them.  At least that is what seventeenth-century observers said they saw, and we have no more reason to doubt their reports of perception than our own.  Placed before the same apparatus, a modern observer would see electrostatic repulsion (rather than mechanical or gravitational rebounding), but historically... electrostatic repulsion was not seen as


such until Hauksbee’s large-scale apparatus had greatly magnified its effects.  [10]

Note, anticipatorily, that there is a relation here between perception and instrumentation (technology).  Kuhn suggests that the use of the same instrumentation can give rise to differing perceptions, but historically the shift did not occur until the instrumentation itself changed.  This is not without import, but it remained only an underdeveloped background phenomenon within Kuhn’s approach.

For Kuhn, gestalt shifts are shifts in seeing as (Wittgenstein).  What is explicit in his interpretation are such things as changes in what counts, selectivities within the phenomenon: “for example... when Aristotle and Galileo looked at swinging stones, the first saw constrained fall, the second a pendulum.” [11]  Indeed, only through a shift could pendulums be perceived: “Pendulums were brought into existence by something very like a paradigm-induced gestalt shift.” [12]  A shift of perception radically reorganizes not some particular element, but a whole field.  “Paradigms determine large areas of experience at the same time.” [13]  This analysis of scientific perception, once understood, makes it easy to see why the nomological model must take a different role within the interpretation of science.  Only after there is some paradigm or other, some structure macroperception or other, does what counts as a fact become a fact.  Similarly, only after there is a gestalt can its laws be determined and refined.  The same can even be said for predictions - only after there is some formed whole (gestalt) can there be anything like a rational prediction.  As such, a perception is a kind of precursor to a phenomenon, which then can be made ever more explicit in its detail and implication.  Kuhn’s strategy is thus a “top down” one.

Within the context of Anglo-American history and philosophy of science, the Kuhnian adaption of a perceptual model was indeed daring.  This was so not only because it cut against the grain of the then dominant strands of the philosophy of science, but because it did so in the absence of a much richer tradition of the interpretation of perception itself, a tradition which was much better known in European circles through early phenomenology (Husserl and Merleau-Ponty).  Clearly, Kuhn did draw upon the later Wittgenstein, who, among all the philosophers associated with early analytic philosophy, perhaps most often used and referred to perceptual examples.  Learning a language is closely linked to learning to perceive, as Kuhn clearly states:

The child who transfers the word “mama” from all humans to all females and then to his mother is not just learning what “mama” means or who his mother is.  Simultaneously he is learning some of the differences


between males and females as well as something about the ways in which all but one female will behave toward him.  His reactions, expectation, and beliefs - indeed, much of his perceived world - change accordingly. [14]

The Kuhnian model is, then, basically a Wittgensteinian perceptual model.  It recognized that gestalts are perceptual contexts within which elements may be radically and discontinuously related, not only in terms of rearrangements, but more radically, in terms of items which drop out and disappear and in which others appear for the first time.  This places Kuhn, with or without his knowledge or approval, very close to one strain within perceptualist phenomenology.  Moreover, in his description of scientific perception he even approximates the notion of intentionality, which I have suggested forms the framework for the phenomenological interpretation of perception.  If the “world” changes in a paradigm shift, the object or reference of perception within its entire field changes; it reflexively implies a change of some kind in the perceiver.  In the structured macroperception of the scientific community, this also occurs: “Successive paradigms tell us different things about the population of the universe and about that population’s behavior... But paradigms differ in more than substance, for they are directed not only to nature but also back upon the science that produced them.” [15]  Or again, “... when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them... paradigm changes do cause scientists to see the world of their research-engagement differently.” [16]

So, from within the traditions of Anglo-American history and philosophy of science there has arisen a perceptual model for the interpretation of scientific change and development.  But is this model relevant to the counterpart philosophy of technology?  There is at least the hint, within the context of the history of science, that it may be.  Kuhn rarely emphasizes the role of technologies - which, for science, are usually its instrumentation - in any thematic way.  But instrumentation, at least for all modern science, is the material condition; better, it is the embodiment by which science perceives.  Here one finds at least one clue to a possible shift from the philosophy of science to the philosophy of technology.  Yet this clue is not explicitly developed by Kuhn, who remains primarily theory oriented.

Before following up on this clue, however, I wish to turn to Kuhn’s unrecognized philosophical kin, the early phenomenologists.  For it was in this early twentieth-century movement that what I shall term the praxis-perception model was more fully developed.  Thus, I am adopting this European tradition into the family of the new philosophy of science.

The primary progenitor of the phenomenological movement was Edmund Husserl, whose published works appeared from the early 1900s through 1936.  A French reader of his, particularly with


regard to the later works, was Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who died in 1961.  Both turned their attention to the role of perception in science, and both utilized a version of the lifeworld as an interpretative idea.

Husserl’s Crisis was published in 1936, and in it one can find a considerable parallelism with what was to become the new philosophy of science.  Admittedly, in now rereading the Crisis, après-Kuhn, one cannot help but discern contrasts as well.  First, Husserl continued the German tendency to view science as Wissenschaften - although his examples indeed surrounded the rise of Modern physics in Galileo and Descartes - rather than take the narrower focus upon natural science as exemplary science.  Then too, his aim was in part to discern a unique rationality in Western thought; this colors his interpretation and gives it the appearance of a normative, if not “linear,” development.  And while, as I shall illustrate, he clearly develops an idea of something like paradigm shifts, he also regards each change as necessarily both a gain and a loss; thus, the question of progress becomes enigmatic (this in spite of Husserl’s own hope for philosophical progress).

What I wish to concentrate upon, however, is the beginning of a praxis-perception model of interpretation.  In Husserl, this notion takes its place within the structure of the Lifeworld.  Scholars have long acknowledged that there is a fundamental ambiguity within the idea of the lifeworld which will set the stage for the exposition of phenomenology to follow.  On the explicit level, Husserl remains a foundationalist.  This is to say that some stratum - in this case, of human activity - is a founding stratum, while others are founded, are dependent, upon the founding fundament.  In Husserl’s case, what is fundamental is a kind of ordinary human praxis and perception, the world of the human interaction among material things and others.  Its openness toward the other is sensory, and this relation is focally perceptual.

This foundation in ordinary perception and praxis is, however, not usually critically examined; it is simply taken for granted.  This ordinary context is what is both basic and shared throughout the human community.

Consciously we always live in the lifeworld; normally there is no reason for making it explicitly thematic for ourselves universally as world.  Conscious of the world as a horizon, we live for our particular ends, whether as momentary and change ones or as an enduring goal that we have elected for ourselves as a life vocation, to be the dominant one in our active life… Thus as men with a vocation we may permit ourselves to be indifferent to everything else, and we may have an eye only for this horizon as our world and for its own actualities and possibilities - those that exist in this “world” - i.e. we have an eye only to what is in “reality” here… [17]


Within this basic and universal domain of perception and praxis there may occur special forms of activity with particular selectivities which may become “sciences. Science in this concept will both be related to, but, in specific ways, distinguishable from, the lifeworld foundation in ordinary experience.  The lifeworld may contain various “worlds.”  “The goal-directed life which is that of the scientist’s life-vocation clearly falls under the generality of the characterization just made, together with the ‘world’ that is awakened therein in the communalization of scientists… as the horizon of scientific works.” [18]

Here Husserl retains his usual lofty perspective but also anticipates the awareness that embodies science in its community and activity.  It is clear that experience within the horizon of the world and the different “worlds” which can be constituted within the lifeworld is the framework by which development in science can occur.  Returning again to “The Origin of Geometry,” we find one slightly more specific hint of how such an analysis might take shape:

Geometry and the sciences most closely related to it have to do with space-time and the shapes, figures, also shapes of motion, alterations of deformation, etc., that are possible within space-time, particularly the measurable magnitudes.  It is now clear that even if we know almost nothing about the historical surrounding world of the first geometers, this much is certain as an invariant, essential structure that it was a world of “things” (including the human beings themselves as subjects of this world); that all things necessarily had to have a bodily character... and [these] can be secured at least in [their] essential nucleus through a careful a priori explication, [in that] these pure bodies had spatio-temporal shapes and “material” qualities… Further, it is clear that in the life of practical needs certain particularizations of shape stood out and that a technical praxis always [aimed at] the production of particular shapes and the improvement of them according to certain directions of gradualness. [19]

To this point one may contrast several aspects of the lifeworld with the “worlds” of sciences.  First, ordinary perception and action is primary and universal and is simply presupposed by the actual scientist.  Second, the lifeworld may be said to include the “world” of science, but not vice versa.  And third, there is a marked contrast between the “perceptions of the sciences and perception in the lifeworld.”  Here we continue to take account of the first sense of lifeworld as founding fundament.

The ordinary perception, examined critically and reflectively, is shown to be different from scientific perception.  In his case studies on the origins of geometrical method, Husserl notes that:

In the intuitively given surrounding world, by abstractively directing our view to the mere spatiotemporal shapes, we experience “bodies” – not


geometrically-ideal bodies but precisely those bodies that we actually experience, with the content which is the actual content of experience. [20]

This perception is what I call microperception; it is more narrowly sensory in its original understanding.  The base stratum of the Husserlian lifeworld continues to be this domain of human interaction with a material-surrounding world.

Geometry, when it does arise, does so from a particularization within the perceptual field: Certain shapes are noticed, preferred, perfected, etc., and by a gradual process of abstraction and variation, move from that base toward the imaginatively ideal.  Geometry originates from a certain kind of perception and praxis:

The geometrical methodology of operatively determining some and finally all ideal shapes, beginning with basic shapes as elementary means of determination, points back to the methodology of determination and measuring in general, practices first primitively and then as an art in the prescientific, intuitively given surrounding world. [21]

As these shapes are selected, chosen, and perfected, new interests and praxes arise with a trajectory toward idealization.  “Out of the praxis of perfecting, of freely pressing toward the horizons of conceivable perfecting ‘again and again’ limit-shapes emerge toward which the particular series of perfectings end.” [22]  In short, one begins to get a special geometrical praxis.

In this new type of praxis, perceptions also change.  A new praxis is an acquisition, which once acquired may become familiar; its origins and the means by which it was attained are forgotten.  That which becomes familiar becomes transparent and taken-for-true.  It becomes a kind of “perception,” but now, while intuitive, something beginning to approximate a macroperception, a “cultural” perception.  It is precisely this movement which characterizes Husserl’s interpretation of the rise of Modern Science in the figures of Galileo and Descartes.

I shall not sketch out the whole of this interpretation.  But what Husserl asks is: What constitutes the realm of the taken-for-granted which would have been part of Galileo’s perspective upon geometry?  And with some subtlety he traces not only what Galileo could take for granted but, in a reconstruction, makes us aware of what we take for granted.  This level actually arises much later, after the paradigm shift Galileo instigated was solidified.

According to Husserl, what was “obvious” to Galileo was a long tradition of the relation and application of ancient geometry in a Platonistic guise such that the empirical world could be mathematized with a certain intuitiveness - but only to a point.  Partial measurements and correspondences were known from antiquity (and revived in the


Renaissance).  Thus, without further specifying origins, proportions between lengths of strings and sounds (harmonics) and between selected shapes (triangles, etc. - not initially rough or complex shapes) and their elaboration in plane geometry could be taken for granted.  But a new type of universalization, a new perspective, is taken by Galileo, a perspective which only much later can become so taken-for-granted that it becomes intuitive.

The problem revolves around sensory perception.  Shapes, already closely subsumed under ancient geometry, are only a part of the sensory world.  In addition, there are what Husserl calls plenary or specific-sense qualities (colors will do for an example).  These do not easily fall under the geometric praxis: “The difficulty here lies in the fact that material plena - the specific sense-qualities - which concretely fill out the spatiotemporal shape-aspects of the world of bodies cannot, in their own gradations, be directly treated as are the shapes themselves.” [23]

Some means must be devised, then, to account for these plenary qualities, or else one must realize that the geometrical method is only a special and limited praxis related to one aspect of the world.  Galileo’s invention, Husserl claims, is the development of an indirect means of mathematizing the plena.  Galileo must find a means to translate plenary phenomena into spatial ones in order for them to become available for geometrical analysis.  And that is what he does.

Conceptually, this move, well known in both Galileo and Descartes, first denies to the objects their plenary qualities in the doctrine of primary and secondary qualities.  Put baldly, the object-in-itself is purely a geometrical entity, a res extensa; its plenary qualities are located not in the object but in the subject.  Colors are “subjective.”  But now, since we see a thing as both extended and colored, there must be some way to subsume color into geometrical analysis.  And it is here that the indirect geometrization begins to take shape.  There must be some index of regularity which, while not directly spatial, can be related to some “spatial” measurement, directly or through a process of translation.

Now with regard to the “indirect” mathematization of that aspect of the world which in itself has no mathematizable world-form, such mathematization is thinkable only in the sense that the specifically sensible qualities (“plena”) that can be experienced in the intuited bodies are closely related in a quite peculiar and regulated way with the shapes that belong essentially to them. [24]

In this perspective, not yet intuitive, Galileo dramatically paves the way for Modern physics such that, today, second thoughts are rarely given to the procedure:


What we experienced in prescientific life, as colors, tones, warmth, and weight belonging to the things themselves and experienced causally as a body’s radiation of warmth which makes adjacent bodies warm, and the like, indicates in terms of physics, of course, tone-vibrations, warmth-vibrations, i.e., pure events in the world of shapes.[italics mine] [25]

So much of this is taken for granted that undergraduates can even say that they “see” wave lengths.

This is to say that once gestalted, the Galilean perspective becomes a kind of macroperception which can be taken for granted with new modifications possible.  But it is precisely here that the ambiguity in Husserl reaches its own apex.  For if the new means of understanding phenomena becomes a genuine cultural acquisition as the investigation into the origins by means of a praxis become transparent, it overlooks the contrast with the fundamental lifeworld.

But now we must note something of the highest importance that occurred even as early as Galileo the surreptitious substitution of the mathematically substructed world of idealities for the only real world, the one that is actually given through perception, that is ever experienced and experienceable - our everyday lifeworld.  This substitution was promptly passed on to his successors, the physicists of all the succeeding centuries. [26]

Husserl seems to be saying that the lifeworld is, and must be, the sensory lifeworld, based in the relations between actional humans and the concrete, material world of things and beings, which are bodily.  And these are intuitively, perceptually available to everyone.  Then a second type of intuitability also occurs, such as that exemplified in the Galilean revolution, in which certain combinations of praxically attained perspectives can make possible another intuitable attainment, a cultural acquisition, like a science.

However, such an acquisition is also ambiguous.  Because what is gained by the very means of mathematization, Husserl argues, loses an essential sense of concreteness by overlooking the fundamental lifeworld.

Galileo, the discoverer... of physics, or physical nature is at once a discovering and a concealing genius.  He discovers mathematical nature, the methodical idea, he blazes the trail for the infinite number of physical discoveries and discoverers.  [But] immediately with Galileo, then, begins the surreptitious substitution of idealized nature for prescientifically intuited nature. [27]

The acquisition of the new paradigm conceals the fundament of the ordinary dimension of the lifeworld.

In this context, however, two remarks are called for: First, it


should now be obvious that Husserl clearly developed something similar to the notion of a paradigm shift.  This is, in essence, his interpretation of Galileo.  Galileo “sees” the world differently, and once this perspective is established, it can itself become a tradition which persists.  Here is normal science, a way of seeing and interpreting phenomena which contrasts with the world of ordinary activity and seeing.  In this sense, and specifically by means of an experiential analysis, Husserl anticipates the new philosophy of science.

For Husserl, praxis and perception are the focal basis of the lifeworld.  The lifeworld is that structure of experience which is both perceptual and historical.  It contains sediments and traditions and what Husserl proposed in his reexamination of the rise of Modern Science.

Interestingly, at this very opening point, a long-persistent misunderstanding of Husserl and phenomenology has barred the way to seeing Husserl as forerunner to the new philosophy of science.  It is thought that Husserl always began with “immediate experience,” which was intuited.  Therefore, the misunderstanding usually goes, phenomenology becomes a merely “subjective” procedure.  What fails to be noted is that for phenomenology, all intuitions, as well as all sediments and traditions, are constituted, not given.  Givenness is always merely indexical or preliminary.

Intuitions and traditions, when examined critically, are shown to be what they are only when their constituting field or context is made apparent; and that is what Husserl did with Galileo.  “Given” intuitions or traditions are truly parallel to what Kuhn takes as normal science, while the establishing of a perspective, as with Galileo, is a revolution in science.  Truth - the obvious, the transparent - is what it is because it is already familiar, constituted, sedimented.  But this, in turn, must be referred to both the field which makes the constituting possible and to the activity which does the constituting (or, the revolution which establishes it).

The second comment relates to the tension between Husserl’s two senses of perceivability which may be found in the idea of the lifeworld.  Husserl himself retained the hard sense of perceivability for that founding dimension of the lifeworld or perception in its micro-(sensory) signification.  The second or macro- (hermeneutic-cultural) signification was for him an aperceptive sense.  But insofar as the second sense of perception is used and insofar as it could be gestalted into a taken-for-granted cultural tradition, it is clearly also “intuited.”  Furthermore, Husserl allows that there is both an ordinary and a mathematical praxis possible within the lifeworld.  However, he was still a foundationaljst in that the first, hard sense remained for him the founding stratum.

While Husserl retained microperception as foundational, making (specific scientific) macroperception derivative, even if “higher,” Kuhn


as the later counterpart to this observation emphasizes the second dimension of perceivability.  For Kuhn, it is primarily macroperception which is foundational.  In a rough sense, specific perceptions (scientific observations) take place within a paradigm or macroperception.  Scientific perception, while clearly bodily-perceptual in some sense, is primarily that of the macro-order, a specific formation of the hermeneutic-cultural order.

Interestingly, the movement toward the more obvious discontinuities and polymorphous qualities of cultural macroperception also characterizes some of the moves of the post-Husserlians.  It occurs dramatically in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Within the phenomenological traditions, Merleau-Ponty was the preeminent philosopher of perception.  His Phenomenology of Perception (first published in English in 1962) remains the classic study in the field and, in the context here, was the work which most thoroughly distinguished a phenomenological theory of bodily-sensory perception.  His later Visible and the Invisible (first published in English in 1968), while a posthumous unfinished work, displays a modification which focuses upon the dimension of cultural perception or macroperception as I interpret it.  My reference to him here, however, must be limited to taking note of the emergence of certain features of a praxis-perception model of interpretation relevant to the context of philosophy of science and technology.

Merleau-Ponty read and adapted Husserl into the French world, but his focus began with the later Husserl of the lifeworld period.  In the earlier Phenomenology of Perception there is a kind of structural adaptation of the lifeworld notion.  The base of the lifeworld, as in Husserl, could be said to be common experience:

All my knowledge of the world, even my scientific knowledge, is gained from my own particular point of view, or from some experience of the world without which the symbols of science would be meaningless.  The whole universe of science is built upon the world as directly experienced, and if we want to subject science itself to rigorous scrutiny and arrive at a precise assessment of its meaning and scope, we must begin by reawakening the basic experience of the world of which science is the second-order expression. [28]

There is thus a distinction, similar to Husserl’s, between a common, primary relation to the world and a special, secondary (perhaps higher), scientific relation to the world.  Phenomenology, as Merleau-Ponty sometimes characterized it, was the philosophy which must take the measure of this difference.

If the foundation of the lifeworld could be found in common experience, pre-critically it remains only that which is taken-for-


granted.  The task of a critical phenomenology was to awaken its sense - and here Merleau-Ponty also adapted a version of the Husserlian epoche:

It is because we are through and through compounded of relationships with the world that for us the only way to become aware of the fact is to suspend the resultant activity, to refuse it our complicity... or yet again, to put it “out of play.”  Not because we reject the certainties of common sense and a natural attitude towards things - they are, on the contrary, the constant theme of philosophy - but because, being the presupposed basis of any thought, they are taken for granted, and go unnoticed, and because in order to arouse them and bring them into view, we have to suspend for a moment our recognition of them. [29]

So far, fairly standard Husserl - but Merleau-Ponty interprets the primary world-self relation (intentionality) as actional and perceptual.  In defense of his thesis he claimed, “The perceived world is always the presupposed foundation of all rationality, all value, all existence.” [30]  Thus, in a complex and broadened phenomenological sense, he makes perception basic:

I cannot put perception into the same category as the synthesis represented by judgements, acts or predications.  We must not, therefore, wonder whether we really perceive a world, we must instead say: the world is what we perceive... To seek the essence of perception is to declare that perception is, not presumed true, but defined as access to truth. [31]

Perception, in this sense, is access to truth, the limits within which even rationality can occur: “Rationality is precisely measured by the experience in which it is disclosed.  To say that there exists rationality is to say that perspectives blend, perceptions confirm each other, a meaning emerges.” [32]

By making perception foundational, Merleau-Ponty could be said to be something of a phenomenological “empiricist,” even though his interpretation of perception radically differs from any empiricist sensation theory.  However, by initially identifying perception with the foundationalist interpretation given it by Husserl, Merleau-Ponty falls into the same trap regarding science, which we have previously noted in Husserl’s interpretation of Galileo:

Scientific points of view, according to which my existence is a moment of the world’s, are always both naive and at the same time dishonest, because they take for granted, without explicitly mentioning it, the other point of view, namely that of consciousness, through which from the outset a world forms itself around me and begins to exist for me.  To return to things themselves is to return to that world which precedes knowledge, of which knowledge always speaks, and in relation to which every scientific


schematization is an abstract and derivative sign-language, as is geography in relation to the country side in which we have learnt beforehand what a forest, a prairie or a river is. [33]

I shall contend that by relating common perception to scientific perception in this foundationalist way, the contrast between the praxis of ordinary existence and scientific activity is not only too sharp, but it overlooks another strategy entirely, a strategy which could have been developed from within the phenomenological perspective itself.

The point here, however, is to take brief account of the praxis-perception model which occurs in the works of Merleau-Ponty as a potential contribution to both the philosophy of science and the philosophy of technology.  In general, the modifications upon Husserlian phenomenology have long been recognized as existential reinterpretations. “[Phenomenology] far from being, as has been thought, a procedure of idealistic philosophy... belongs to existential philosophy:  Heidegger’s “being-in-the-world” appears only against the background of the phenomenological reduction.” [34]  Note that existential here means precisely the kind of “materiality” which occurs in praxis and perception; it is primarily an account of a world-body-as-me relation rather than the analysis of “pure consciousness” as intimated by Husserl.

This is to say that the I-world correlation, which is intentionality, is reinterpreted by Merleau-Ponty to be a correlation between the experienced environment - the world - and my experiencing of it as an incarnate or embodied being.  This version of perception thus focuses upon bodily concreteness and revolves around the various dimensions of bodily existence.  The immediate consequences of a theory of perception are clear.  Not only is body (as experiencing or “lived” body) implicated in all perception and the condition of what and how something is perceived, but “the theory of the body is already a theory of perception.” [35]  Thus, in the explication of this theory, existential spatiality or bodily position must be constantly accounted for:

When I walk around my flat, the various aspects in which it presents itself to me could not possibly appear as views of one and the same thing if I did not know that each of them represents the flat seen from one spot or another, and if I were unaware of my own movements, and of my body as retaining its identity through the stages of these movements. [36]

Here we return to one of the points made concerning phenomenological relativity.  Whether or not it is interpreted foundationally, there is some kind of peculiar privilege of bodily existence with respect to any phenomenological perspective.  At least, this is so for all microperception.  Not to take account of spatiality


(position), temporality (existential time), or the various dimensions of actional perception (mortality, expressiveness, even sexuality) would be inadequate and would dehumanize the account.

I shall briefly outline a few of the succinct features of the Merleau-Pontean theory of perception:

1) The recovery of lifeworld perception is understood by Merleau-Ponty to be the task of rediscovering the complexity and multidimensionality of perception.  In the critical part of his analysis - and it should be noted that the science which he criticizes is primarily psychology - his objections include the various types of reductionism which characterize much twentieth-century human science.  What is primitive in perception is its richness:

A wooden wheel placed on the ground is not, for sight, the same thing as a wheel bearing a load.  A body at rest because no force is being exerted upon it is again for sight not the same thing as a body in which opposing forces are in equilibrium.... [v]ision is already inhabited by a significance which gives it a function in the spectacle of the world and in our existence… The problem is to understand these strange relationships which are woven between the parts of the landscape, or between it and me as incarnate subject, and through which an object perceived can concentrate in itself a whole scene or become the image of the whole segment of life.  Sense experience is that vital communication with the world which makes it present as a familiar setting of our life.  It is to it that the perceived object and the perceiving subject owe their thickness. [37]

The perceptual primitive is complex, multidimensioned.  In this sense, the analysis is non-reductive.

2) Although the various senses are discussed throughout the Phenomenology of Perception, it is also clear that bodily motility, action, is basic.  Not unlike much psychology, various illusions and perceptual deception fascinate Merleau-Ponty.  He finds the clue to explanation residing primarily in full, bodily engagements with these (an illusion can maintain itself only through a certain distance and abstraction).  In a discussion of the inverting-glasses experiments (glasses which presumably invert our “visual image” of the environment) and of distorted rooms (which look normal only at a distance and from one position but, if entered, are obliquely constructed and thus non-familiar), the illusory quality depends upon praxis and bodily action.  “What counts for the orientation of the spectacle is not my body as it in fact is, as a thing in objective space, but as a system of possible actions, a virtual body with its phenomenal ‘place’ defined by its task and situation.  My body is wherever there is something to be done.” [38]

Bodily existence is both actional and oriented.  Directions are not arbitrary but refer to bodily capacities and relations within potential


tasks (thus up/down, right/left, and forward/back belong in oriented ways to a being of upright posture).

We must not wonder why being is orientated, why existence is spatial, why [the body’s] co-existence with the world magnetizes experience and induces a direction in it.  The question could only be asked if the facts were fortuitous happenings to a subject and an object indifferent to space, whereas perceptual experience shows that they are presupposed in our primordial encounter with being, and that being is synonymous with being situated. [39]

3) If body-world relations interpreted actionally are basic, the perceptual model which ties much of the Merleau-Pontean strategy together is that of the gestalt figure/ground phenomenon:

When Gestalt theory informs us that a figure on a background is the simplest sense-given available to us, we reply that this is not a contingent characteristic of factual perception... it is the very definition of the phenomenon of perception, that without which a phenomenon cannot be said to be perception at all.  The perceptual “something” is always in the middle of something else, it always forms part of a field. [40]

This is why, for a phenomenological analysis, there can never be an isolated thing-in-itself.  All things are related to some context or other.  This “invariant” for phenomenology, however, derives from its perceptualism.

In Merleau-Ponty’s case, the gestalt model even relates to bodily motility in basic ways:

My body is geared onto the world when my perception presents me with a spectacle as varied and as clearly articulated as possible, and when my motor intentions, as they unfold, receive the responses they expect from the world.  This maximum sharpness of perception and action points clearly to a perceptual ground, a basis of my life, a general setting in which my body can co-exist with the world. [41]

4) If the basic model for analysis revolves around figure/ground relations, there is a related whole/part strategy which also governs the analysis.  In the discussion of illusions, it again becomes clear that there is a weighted difference between the whole (world) and its parts (particular objects or perceptual takings).  “There is absolute certainty of the world in general, but not of any one thing in particular.” [42]  These top-down and whole-part strategies are common to most phenomenological procedures.

5) Since within any given context or whole there can be uncertainty about parts, the human perceptual situation is both fluid and ambiguous.  If we join Merleau-Ponty in accepting that the


primitives of perception are complex and multidimensioned, there is within his mode of analysis a suggestion of a different volatility, of a certain polymorphous quality.  I shall take one particularly ambiguous example, that of three-dimensional visual effects from two-dimensional drawings (long favored examples for psychology experiments).  Merleau-Ponty contends:

Organization in depth is destroyed if I add to the ambiguous drawing not simply any lines (Fig. 3 stubbornly remains a cube) but lines which disunite the elements of one and the same plane and join up those of different planes (Fig. I).  What do we mean when we say that these lines themselves bring about the destruction of depth?  Are we not taking the language of associationism?  We do not mean that the line EH (Fig. 1), acting as a cause, disorganizes the cube into which it is introduced, but that it induces a general grasp which is not the grasp in depth.

It is understood that the line EH itself possesses an individuality only if I grasp it in that light, if I run over it and trace it out myself.  But this grasp and this delineation are not arbitrary.  They are indicated or recommended by phenomena.  The demand here is not an overriding one, simply because it is a question of an ambiguous figure, but in a normal visual field, the segregation of planes and outlines is irresistible; for example, when I walk along an avenue, I cannot bring myself to see the spaces between the trees as things and the trees themselves as a background.  It is certainly I who have the experience of the landscape, but in this experience I am conscious of taking up a factual situation, of bringing together a significance dispersed among phenomena, and of saying what they of their own accord mean. [43]

What may be noted from this discussion is that: (a) such ambiguous phenomena, in his interpretation, have a certain gradation of ambiguity but are clearly polymorphous in some degree; and (b) the gradation of polymorphy, however, is related to certain “bodily engagement” possibilities.  Thus Merleau-Ponty contends that reversibilities from such abstract and disengaged drawings are not repeatable within the more


engaged praxis of motion (walking down the tree-lined avenue).  Yet, within the ambiguous gestalt that the figures present, there is a range of perceptual polymorphy.

From this limited exposition of the praxis-perception model emerging from the Phenomenology of Perception it should be clear that it focuses upon what I call microperception, that is, the action and perception which occurs in our bodily or incarnate engagement with the immediate environment or world.  What remains unclear is how this model of bodily-perceptual engagement relates to the development of either the new philosophy of science or the philosophy of technology.

I will make only one basic comment with respect to the philosophy of science.  By adding an analysis of perception and indicating how it is a constant in the emergence of truth or rationality, Merleau-Ponty clearly belongs to that group of thinkers who would necessarily see the praxis of science as both an engaged and an embodied form of action.  It should also be obvious, particularly from the central role gestalt models play, that the analysis of perception supplements what Kuhn later developed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Indeed, the specific analysis of perception is considerably beyond the depth of either Kuhn’s or Wittgenstein’s use of perception.  But this is not to claim that Merleau-Ponty applied his insights to the institution of science.  That was not his aim.

If the role of perception, especially at the microperceptual order of things, does not immediately seem to fit the concerns of philosophy of science, the opposite is the case with respect to the philosophy of technology.  The materiality of body carries with it, particularly with regard to artifact use, certain rather immediate implications.  Merleau-Ponty offers three examples in the discussion of bodily spatiality:

A woman may, without any calculation, keep a safe distance between the feather in her hat and things which might break it off.  She feels where the feather is just as we feel where our hand is.  If I am in the habit of driving a car, I enter a narrow opening and see that I can “get through” without comparing the width of the opening with that of the wings, just as I go through a doorway without checking the width of the doorway against that of my body. [44]

In Polanyi’s parlance, these phenomena would be examples of tacit knowledge, since they are a kind of “know how” without explicit conceptual judgment attached to them.  But they are more - they are examples of how artifacts (technologies) may be used or experienced in use.  They are examples of what I call embodiment relations.  Such relations are existential (bodily-sensory), but they implicate how we utilize technologies and how such use transforms what it is we experience


through such technologies.  Merleau-Ponty is more precise in his example of the blind man’s cane:

The blind man’s tool has ceased to be an object for him, and is no longer perceived for itself; its point has become an area of sensitivity, extending the scope and active radius of touch, and providing a parallel to sight.  In the exploration of things, the length of the stick does not enter expressly as a middle term: The blind man is rather aware of it through the position of objects than the position of objects through it.  The position of things is immediately given through the extent of the reach which carries him to it, which comprises besides the arm’s own reach the stick’s range of action. [45]

I contend that this experiential phenomenon has implications not only for the philosophy of technology, but for the philosophy of science.  The feather, the automobile, and the cane fall into the same existential use as many scientific instruments, a use that has simply been ignored in most of the standard analyses but which belongs essentially to the expansion of insight needed within a new philosophy of science.

If the primary contribution toward both philosophy of science and, potentially, the philosophy of technology may be found in the analysis of microperception in its sensory-bodily dimensions, there is also a growing awareness on Merleau-Ponty’s part of what I call macroperception in its interaction with microperception.  Unfortunately, these later insights received were far less developed, but they are indicated in his later work, The Visible and the Invisible.  He was clearly aware of the role of culture in relation to perception:

It is a remarkable fact that the uninstructed have no awareness of perspective [in art] and that it took a long time and much reflection for men to become aware of the perspectival deformation of objects...  I say that the Renaissance perspective is a cultural fact, that perception itself is polymorphic and that if it became Euclidian [sic], this is because it allows itself to be oriented by the system...  What I maintain is that: there is an informing of perception by culture which enables us to say that culture is perceived. [46]

Here is a clear, emerging awareness of the interaction between and the interrelatedness of micro- and macroperception.

Although there does not seem to be any indication that Merleau-Ponty applied the gestalt and phenomenological notion of field and focus or figure and ground to this interrelation, his analysis is clearly open to that suggestion.  But Merleau-Ponty does not simply absorb microperception into macroperception in a Wittgensteinian nor, as will follow, a Foucaultean way.

The late Michel Foucault (d. 1983) will be the last thinker I shall discuss as a European counterpart of the new philosophy of science.


Such a choice might seem strange to some phenomenologists, because Foucault characterized himself as antiphenomenological.  Yet in spite of this self-characterization, I shall argue that Foucault develops precisely the praxis-perception model which is needed for a philosophy of technology.  He was, in fact, a student of Merleau-Ponty; there is substantial internal evidence that much of his work was effectively a response to Merleau-Ponty.  (He was an avid reader of Heidegger as well.)

On the other side, there is an as yet unappreciated appropriateness to placing Foucault in this discussion.  He was a strict contemporary of Thomas Kuhn; and his first major work, Madness and Civilization, was published in 1961, actually preceding Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions by one year.  And while there has been something of a fad concerning Foucault in certain circles - particularly among postmodernists and literary critics - it is only very recently that his impact on philosophy of science has begun to emerge.  There are several reasons for this.  First, his taste for such phenomena as madness, punishment and sexuality - his “archeologies,” as he calls them - is less likely to appeal to the sparse soberness of much of the philosophy of science establishment.  Second, given his notion of discourse and power contexts and the apparent application primarily to the human sciences, it may have seemed that Foucault was at best tangential to the philosophy of science.  That has changed in the last few years, thanks in part to the influence of Hubert Dreyfus, who with a whole generation of recent bilingual younger philosophers of science has succeeded in linking Heidegger and Foucault in a new form of discourse/power context.

I shall be taking a quite different tack by looking at Foucault through the praxis-perception model of interpretation I am now building.  Thus, part of the task is to re-locate Foucault in that interpretation.  In a strikingly parallel way, his Order of Things (1966) is a reinterpretation of the human sciences, as Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions was of the natural sciences.  Foucault’s archeologies and histories of perception also emphasize sudden and discontinuous shifts in perspective and, like Kuhn, exemplify shifts of the macroperceptual domain.  Foucault is thus a pivotal figure in this juncture between phenomenology and the new philosophy of science.

He most explicitly defended his method in The Archeology of Knowledge (1969), in which he made his stylistically flamboyant and deliberately contrary strategy most apparent.  He argued that if standard intellectual history is linear, his would be nonlinear; if the standard was continuous and anticipatory or evolutionary, his would be discontinuous and anti-anachronistic.  The same contrary strategy applied to any history-through-individuals approach, for which he substituted his version of annales history.  The latter focuses upon


anonymous history, even “unconscious” history, which belongs to no one in particular but does belong to social practice.

However, such seemingly contrary perversity, can also be seen as a kind of deliberate gestalt switching.  What was for Kuhn a kind of occurrence, in Foucault’s practice becomes a deliberate device.  This practice, I would argue, is familiar to anyone steeped in phenomenology.  It is the deliberate use of variational method which traces all the way back to Husserl, and this use is clearly visible in Foucault’s own praxis.

However, the results of Foucault’s archeologies and histories of perception run so parallel to the phenomena which Kuhn calls paradigm shifts that one wonders whether or not Foucault may not be right regarding the appearance of virtually simultaneous new practices.  (This is not to deny that Kuhn’s interpretation of paradigm shifts remains at the level of a more conceptualistic shift than those illustrated by Foucault, which presumably evidence a discourse-praxis.)

I have suggested that Foucault belongs within the overall phenomenological trajectory despite his explicit self-denials.  Not only was he a student of Merleau-Ponty, but the outline of Order of Things betrays simply too many specific responses to Merleau-Ponty’s writings to go unnoticed.  I shall note a few of these to make the point: Merleau-Ponty’s favored examples came primarily from aesthetics, and at one point he made the claim that whereas one could have language about language, one could not have painting about painting.  Order opens with a discussion of Velasquez’s Las “Meninas,” a painting which shows a painter painting, but which more deeply is a mirror-phenomenon of reflections, a painting about painting.  The very next chapter is “The Prose of the World,” a title taken directly from one of Merleau-Ponty’s later collections.  So just as the subject of Velasquez’s painting remains invisible within the representation, so does Merleau-Ponty remain unseen in Order.  Contrary to his statements but based on his own work, I shall then place Foucault within the trajectory of a phenomenological preoccupation with perception and praxis.  His negative response to phenomenology remains at a surface level, but the model of interpretation which he follows, while uniquely modifying the tradition, remains recognizably within it.

The modifications which Foucault enacts within a phenomenological trajectory can be seen as following some of the inner, but often undiscerned, implications of this tradition.  Husserl, particularly in his early writings, retained the traditions of the transcendental philosophies, which run from Descartes through Kant.  These philosophies located the source and structure of knowledge within a subject.  It is this “phenomenology” which Foucault strongly rejects:


If there is one approach that I do reject, however, it is that (one might call it broadly speaking, the phenomenological approach) which gives absolute priority to the observing subject, which attributes a constituent role to the act, which places its own point of view at the origin of all historicity - which, in short, leads to a transcendental consciousness. [47]

What Foucault is rejecting is both the transcendental and foundational framework within which Husserl remained.  But the rejection of both these aspects of an older tradition already had been discarded by Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger - dramatically so in their later works.  Post-Husserlian phenomenology was already existential and hermeneutic in form.  And it is from this unstated base that Foucault really begins.

The shift Foucault takes combines certain features of structuralism and semiotics - also powerful French movements - into a still basically phenomenological aim.  He rejects the subjectivist aspects of phenomenology regarding a knowing subject and replaces this with a framework focusing upon discourse-praxis and social or macroperception.  “It seems to me that the historical analysis of scientific discourse should, in the last resort, be subject, not to a theory of the knowing subject, but rather to a theory of discursive practice.” [48]  This places praxis and perception at the linguistic and cultural level.

In his initially European context, Foucault’s critique belongs to a whole movement of iconoclasts who have attacked the older transcendental and foundational philosophies.  The “self” is to be decentered, “intentionality” interpreted as deliberate acts of knowledge overthrown, and the role of knowing consciousness displaced.  In their stead, one is to examine anonymous histories, “unconscious” models of knowledge, and the discontinuities within perceptual histories.  His most notorious notion, usually taken out of context, is his frequently quoted claim that “Man” is a recent invention:

Strangely enough, man - the study of whom is supposed by the naïve to be the oldest investigation since Socrates - is probably no more than a kind of rift in the order of things, or, in any case, a configuration whose outlines are determined by the new position he has so recently taken up in the field of knowledge.  Whence all the chimeras of the new humanisms, all the facile solutions of an “anthropology” understood as a universal reflection on man, half-empirical, half-philosophical.  It is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form. [49]

One can immediately see why such an apparently outrageous claim


drew attention.  But its sense may be revealed only by taking account of the substitutions Foucault makes in the praxis-perception paradigm.

Briefly put, the history of the perception concept I have followed here is rooted in the late Husserl, where perception in its micro- or sensory connotation does remain within the overall traditions of a transcendental and foundational philosophy.  The grounding perception of the lifeworld is both universal and foundational - at least, in its basic outline.  Moreover, it is a perception which is multidimensional in that its aim is at the secondary kind of familiarity or cultural taken-for-grantedness, is already a modification upon the presumed foundation.  The Galilean revolution is one which can be culturally “perceived” and taken-for-granted over centuries as the normative perspective of the physical sciences.

In existentializing Husserl’s entire notion of the perceptual arc, Merleau-Ponty moves ever farther away from both transcendental and foundational interpretations.  While the living body provides a weighted focus, a located point of view which is also the locus of action, it is clearly not the foundation of the world or even of knowledge.

In Merleau-Ponty, intentionality had already become existential, and in many of its aspects, tacit or not explicitly “conscious.”  The body, while remaining concrete and material, was not the “universal” foundation of knowledge, although it was the means of access to the world.  But the world was seen to be both ambiguous and polymorphous within multidimensional perception.  In the later works, perception itself relates to cultural contexts, for if different historical eras can discern depth in paintings differently, perception itself must exhibit a polymorphic quality.

Putting the phenomenological history of perception in this way, one can see that Foucault continues its radicalization.  In turning to “body,” the movement is one which makes body highly ambiguous and polymorphic.  The “body” is not simply a material body but also a cultural body (as in the “body politic”).  Discipline and Punish (1975) begins with a gruesome description of the drawing and quartering of a regicide in 1757.  The condemned’s body was here the focal point of an entire political praxis, each step of the cruel and drawn-out execution virtually ritualized as the power of the sovereign is concretely applied to the body of the prisoner.  The entire act occurs within sight of the populace so that the power of the king may be seen.

In a paradigm shift with respect to punishment, Foucault then contends that a more modern form occurs as a massive set of substitutions.  “The body as the major target of penal repression disappeared.  Punishment... [becomes] the most hidden part of the penal process.” [50]  But this shift from public to hidden executions, and then to long imprisonment out of public sight, also contains a shift in the entire gestalt.  Its focus is much more upon the control of the inner


person and the removal from the new form of the “body politic.”  “When the moment of execution approaches, the patients are injected with tranquilizers.  A utopia of judicial reticence: Take away life, but prevent the patient from feeling it; deprive the prisoner of all rights, but do not inflict pain…” [51]

In our context, such dramatic paradigm shifts in the order of control are modifications upon the praxis-perception model toward an analysis of structured macroperceptions.  Here again, Foucault’s actual analysis, even though interested in the phenomenon of power, follows a parallel with Kuhn.

He is close to that perspective for another reason.  Foucault took much of his modification upon the praxis-perception model from structuralism and its linguistics (de Saussure and the traditions of French semiotics).  Interestingly, although formed from very different sources, this background resulted in an essentially Wittgensteinian stance in which perception is always located within language contexts.  Perception belongs inextricably tp language.  Language or discourse, in Foucault, locates and contexts perception.  The result of these moves is the trademark of the new philosophy of science, a subtle attentiveness to discontinuities, particularly in the scientific perception of the world.

The Order of Things (1966) comes closest to philosophy of science concerns.  The preface begins with a “Chinese encyclopedia”:

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought - our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other.  This passage quotes a “certain Chinese encyclopaedia” in which it is written that “animals are divided into: (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) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”  In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that. [52]

One can immediately sense that something strange is afoot.  But in spite of the extreme example, Foucault’s thesis itself is more modest.  He traces the distinctive features of what he calls epistemes, periods of the order of knowledge, and shows how they are both particular organizations of knowledge and perception and how they are radically


discontinuous with one-another.  They are paradigm shifts within our history.  The first such shift is virtually canonical, from the Middle Ages to the time of the rise of science through the Renaissance, examples of which are vividly analyzed in Order.  But Foucault sees more: He argues that there have been radical shifts in the order of knowledge between the Renaissance and the Classical periods (the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, usually referred to in philosophy as the modern period) and again between the nineteenth and present centuries.  In short, where the dominant traditions of intellectual history have assumed continuity, Foucault discerns discontinuity as evidenced by his perceptual history.  I shall examine briefly a few samples of this analysis to show not only how Foucault clearly parallels the thrust of the new philosophy of science but subtly advances its insights through the examination of such different gestalts.  I shall restrict my examples to those closest to sciences.  In this case, the fields will be botany and biology.

The question in this context is how plant and animal life is perceived.  In the broad sense employed by Foucault, a perception is an ordered knowledge and is revealed in the way the order is shaped, the way it is represented and described, and the way observation-perception occurs.

Foucault’s characterization of the sixteenth-century episteme would most likely be the easiest to recognize.  The organizing theme which characterized this era was the great, complex web of resemblance.  “It was resemblance that largely guided exegesis and the interpretation of texts; it was resemblance which organized the play of symbols; made possible knowledge of things visible and invisible, and controlled the art representing them.” [53]  Moreover, the perceiving of this vast, complex but tightly interwoven Medieval world was simultaneously a perceiving and a reading.  Foucault argues that in this period, reading is the very model of language; nature, the heavens, all things are to be read as though a text.  It was the age of interpretation.

I shall not attempt to deal with the subtlety or the complexity of his analysis of resemblance, marked by a number of internal relations which linked the era, or episteme, into a coherent paradigm.  But I shall relate this to the perception of the variable botanic and biological life which takes its place within this episteme.  To observe or perceive a plant or animal is to do so within the context of the order of things Medieval.  Quoting a text of the period, Foucault notes, “Is it not true that all herbs, plants, trees and other things issuing from the bowels of the earth are so many magic books and signs?” [54]

Such a paradigm is not limited to botany or biology.  It is a well known fact that this mode of knowledge is also a key to the organization of the great cultural monuments of the time - the European cathedrals.  Here one “reads” the history of the world in glass and stone, and the whole is organized into its balance and overlay of


similitudes.  And if the primary text, the Bible, does not in itself provide the balance needed, extra-biblical examples are added to complete the picture.

Symmetry, resemblance, and the great Medieval notion of analogy context the very perception of botany.

There exists a sympathy between aconite and our eyes.  This unexpected affinity would remain in obscurity if there were not some signature on the plant, some mark, some work as it were, telling us it is good for diseases of the eye.  This sign is clearly legible in its seeds!  They are tiny dark globes set in white skinlike coverings whose appearance is much like that of eyelids covering an eye.  It is the same with the affinity of the walnut and the human head!  What cures “wounds of the pericranium” is the thick green rind covering the bones - the shell of the fruit; but internal head ailments may be prevented by the use of the nut itself “which is exactly like the brain in appearance.” [55]

Such an organization of knowledge - and particularly of perception - must seem as strange today as the “Chinese encyclopedia” which startles Foucault.

This strangeness may be revealed in another way: What if we were to take seriously the following example?

The world is simply the universal “convenience” [close relation or similitude] of things; there are the same number of fishes in the water as there are animals, or objects produced by the nature of man, on the land (are not fishes called Episcopus, others called Catena, and others called Priapus?); the same number of beings in the water and on the surface of the earth as there are in the sky, the inhabitants of the former corresponding with those of the latter… [56]

Were we to reverse the usual negation by the present view upon this example - which in the textbooks would probably take the shape of criticizing the non-empirical sense of organization - and ask, do we know this to be false? we would immediately see that not only do we not know it to be false but we do not even have the means to determine its truth or falseness.  Whole earth measurements by means of satellites and whole population demographies of plant and animal life simply do not exist, even in the twentieth century.

Rather, the very question strikes us as strange, since we simply no longer understand or perceive things under this paradigm.  What could it possibly mean if the numbers were right?  This is the point Foucault makes.  Resemblance, as organization of things, simply drops out by the seventeenth century.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, during the period that has been termed, rightly or wrongly, the Baroque, thought ceases to move in


the element of resemblance.  Similitude is no longer the form of knowledge, but rather the occasion of error, the danger to which one exposes oneself when one does not examine the obscure region of confusions. [57]

Here is a radical paradigm shift, one which is extreme enough to invert the very role of resemblance.  It is a discontinuity in cultural perception:

Discontinuity - the fact that within the space of a few years a culture sometimes ceases to think as it had been thinking up till then and begins to think other things in a new way - probably begins from outside, from that space which is, for thought, on the other side, but in which it has never ceased to think from the very beginning. [58]

Here, independently parallel to Kuhn, is a European example of discontinuities rooted in a radical shift of the organization of knowledge and the rearrangement of perception.  Moreover, this is a gestalt shift, not of one variable but of an entire constellation.  Within the Medieval episteme there is “a nondistinction between what is seen and what is read, between observation and relation, which results in the constitution of a single, unbroken surface in which observation and language intersect to infinity.” [59]  Thus, with respect to the bestiaries and the fabulous botanies, it is not so much the non-empirical character which differentiates the descriptions found there as the very concept of what counts in a perception.  The individual plant or animal simply belongs, in its very visibility, to the wider invisibility of relations, which include the multiple dimensions ranging from the heavens to hell.  Observation, if it may be called that at all, must include not only colors, which themselves relate outward, but their relations to the whole: “The bright colors of the flowers reproduce, without violence, the pure form of the sky.” [60]  These relations include its history, its uses, its theological connections to the virtual infinity of the Medieval episteme.

In his reinterpretation of the accepted paradigm shift between Medieval and Modern periods, Foucault characterizes this shift as a gestalt.  It includes both differing perceptions and a different understanding of language itself: “The profound kinship of language with the world was thus dissolved.  The primacy of the written word went into abeyance.  And that uniform layer, in which the seen and the read, the visible and the expressible, were endlessly interwoven, vanished too.” [61]  The same applies to the understanding of perception.  It is severed from its relations and histories.  “The eye was thenceforth destined to see and only to see, the ear to hear.” [62]  This was also the time when the senses began to be divided into discrete dimensions.  There was a shift in the role and even the understanding of the senses.

Neither Foucault nor Kuhn is able to answer why such shifts occur.


Foucault’s suggestion that erosion occurs from the outside parallels Kuhn’s sense of internal accumulated anomalies.  But in both cases it becomes clear that the arguments which establish the new paradigm as ascendent become possible and plausible only after such a shift, a different way of seeing, has occurred.  Thus, once resemblance changed its value, there could emerge a wide spectrum of arguments which attack it.  Bacon’s attack upon idols, Descartes’s attack upon resemblance, and most scathingly, Hume’s attacks upon analogy are made from an already established counterview.  And Foucault sees, rightly, I think, that the seventeenth century arguments were far more than a call for empirical, testable experiments; their basic thrust was against knowledge by resemblance.  Our penchant to read the attacks as anticipations of Positivism is itself anachronistic.

To this point we are on at least partly familiar ground.  The striking distance between us and the Medievals is too great not to notice.  The Medieval episteme is at best a monument - interesting, impressive, imaginative, but archaic.  But not so the Modern period, with its association to the rise of Modern Science.  This period we more often take as contiguous with ours, even within some of the dominant traditions of contemporary philosophy.  Foucault argues to the contrary, and in effect, claims that the organization of Modern knowledge and its version of perception is as archaic and distinct from the contemporary era as other no-longer-utilized paradigms.  Our reading of the Modern era, Foucault contends, has become naively anachronistic because the modern way of ordering knowledge has been completely forgotten or missed. [63]

The first set of substitutions is at least partly familiar.  For resemblance - which now becomes the domain of confusion to be rejected and replaced - the Modern era established a notion of Order, whose method of organization is to be geometrical analysis.  “This relation to Order is as essential to the Classical (Modern) age as the relation to Interpretation was to the Renaissance.” [64]  Indeed, it is more the sense of order than of measurement which takes precedence early in the period:

Relations between beings are indeed to be conceived in the form of order and measurement, but with this fundamental imbalance, that it is always possible to reduce problems of measurement to problems of order.  So that the relation of all knowledge to the mathesis is posited as the possibility of establishing an ordered succession between things, even nonmeasurable ones.  In this sense, analysis was very quickly to acquire the value of a universal method. [65]

We are obviously close to the same observation made by Husserl.  But by his use of disciplines other than geometry and physics, a different


perspective is gained.  For once beyond the close linking of shapes and spatial arrangements possible in the first two sciences, once the organic world is entered, other problems arise, particularly for Galilean and Cartesian “mechanism.”  In the realm of botany and biology, “The centre of knowledge, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is the table.  Arguments occur within the context of a table.  Where are things to be located with respect to the table?  Natural history is born, and its order is visible taxonomy.

The changes which occur are simultaneous, like the reversal of a figure and ground.  But one can note this by looking at the variables of meaning - for example, “history.”  Foucault asserts that “In the sixteenth century, and right up to the middle of the seventeenth, all that existed was histories.” [66]   But by 1657, with the publication of Jonston’s Natural History of the Quadrupeds, there is a shift such that what had been “history” to the Medievals simply drops out.  Jonston subdivides his chapter on the horse under twelve headings: name, anatomical parts, habitat, ages, generation, voice, movements, sympathy and antipathy, uses, medicinal uses.” [67]

Here we still have the sense of the Chinese encyclopedia compared to the present, but the being’s relations are nevertheless changed.

The essential difference [between Jonston and his predecessors] lies in what is missing in Jonston.  The whole of animal semantics has disappeared, like a dead and useless limb.  The words that have been interwoved in the very being of the beast have been unravelled and removed: and the living being, in its anatomy, its form, its habits, its birth and death, appears as though stripped naked. [68]

In this sense, the natural history which is born within the context of the table of order reduces the multiple relations and dimensions of the beings from their previous organization.

What was both a history, yet also a character of the animal is then what is displaced and then disappears by means of substitutions.  Linnaeus prescribes a specific plan of description which must follow an order: name, theory, kind, species, attributes, use - and then, as a kind of useless appendix, litteria. [69]  In this process of reduction, history changes meaning.  “The Classical [Modern] age gives history a quite different meaning: that of undertaking a meticulous examination of things themselves for the first time, and then of transcribing what it has gathered in smooth, neutralized, and faithful words.” [70]

This organization even differs, Foucault argues, from that of the Renaissance, which he views as a transition between the Medieval and the Modern eras.  The Renaissance also collected and was interested in exotic plants and animals, but more as theater.  “What came surreptitiously into being between the age of the theatre and that of the


catalogue was not the desire for knowledge, but a new way of connecting things both to the eye and to discourse.  A new way of making history.” [71]

If the meaning of what counts as history changes, so does the variable of perception.  Perception is linked in a different way to language: “Natural history is nothing more than the nomination of the visible. [Italics mine]” [72]  Here is a new way of seeing: It is the transformation of previous perception into “observation.”  In Foucaultean terminology, one can say observation is born:

Observation, from the seventeenth century onward was a perceptible knowledge furnished with a series of systematically negative conditions.  Hearsay is excluded, that goes without saying but so are taste and smell, because their lack of certainty and their variability render impossible any analysis into distinct elements that could be universally acceptable.  The sense of touch is very narrowly limited to the designation of a few fairly evident distinctions (such as that between smooth and rough); which leaves sight with an almost exclusive privilege, being the sense by which we perceive extent and establish proof, and in consequence, the means to an analysis partes extra partes acceptable to everyone. [73]

The new Order now determines which senses are to be favored and it also determines how these senses are to be focused.  That which is clear and distinct and spatially extended rises in importance over other possibilities.  In short, perception becomes weighted in favor of vision, is virtually reduced to vision; but more, it also selects that which, within the visible, is to count, a reduction of vision.  This is so much the case that the metaphysics of primary and secondary qualities even enters into what can count within vision.  “The area of visibility in which observation is able to assume its powers is thus only what is left after these exclusions: a visibility freed from all other sensory burdens and restricted, moreover, to black and white.” [74]  Finally, this vision is structured according to geometrical values with emphasis upon lines, surfaces, forms, and reliefs. [75]

In passing, I wish to note that it is in this context that Foucault makes one of his rare comments about what is here termed technology.  It is clear that for Fourcault it is the order of things which determines the selection and use of technologies and not the other way around.  “In fact, it was the same complex of negative conditions that limited the realm of experience and made the use of optical instruments possible.” [76]  In this respect, Foucault, not unlike the other new philosophers of science, remains Platonistic.

Observation is born in the seventeenth century and is a particular ordered perception, linked to the visible but also within the visible, strictly and selectively ordered.  “To observe, then, is to be content with seeing - with seeing a few things systematically.” [77]  It is to leave out


precisely what Husserl called the plenary qualities of things.  Science becomes the immense task of naming and organizing the world of the visible into the classifications and tables of the Modern era.  Botany and biology become natural histories (classifications) and taxonomies.  And the arguments internal to this Order are those about how many, where, and how organized the things must be - this is the normal science of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Foucault argues that this way of seeing the world has in effect disappeared.  Nor should it be anachronistically understood as some kind of anticipation of the next epistemic organization.  It precedes the episteme of the nineteenth century, to be sure; but with the invention of biology proper (Foucault refuses to apply this term to the study of animal life prior to the nineteenth century), there occurs yet another radical paradigm shift.  And with this shift appears another gestalt arrangement which reorganizes all the variables simultaneously.

Again restricting my examples to botany and to biology as characterized by Foucault, there is both a change in the order of knowledge and in the realm of perception.  From placing things upon a table arranged according to a set of variables open to vision, the invention of biology shifts to that which is internal and invisible.  Its paradigmatic science is no longer a natural history, but comparative anatomy.  “From Cuvier onward, it is life in its non-perceptible, purely functional aspect that provides the basis for the exterior possibility of a classification.” [78]

The new episteme revalues the plenum in a new way, with one dominant substitution, that of the interior for the exterior. “The first of these techniques is constituted by comparative anatomy: This discipline gives rise to an interior space, bounded on the one side by the superficial stratum of teguments and shells and on the other by the quasi-visibility of that which is infinitely small.” [79]  There is, then, a kind of inversion in which what had been important - precisely, the exterior of shapes and number and arrangement, etc. - is now taken as secondary to the interior microstructure investigated by anatomy.

While my focus here remains upon Foucault’s interpretation of the paradigm shift from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries, I would first enter what will become a major disagreement with its characterization.  By terming the invention of biology as a shift to the “invisible,” there is a shift to what had been either not attended to or attended to in a simple, manifest way.  Biology does not shift to the invisible, but to a different kind of visibility which Foucault terms quasi-visibility, the internal and the microstructured.  But this domain is precisely what the technology – instrumentation - of science made available to the nineteenth century as never before.  The new seeing is by means pf instrumentation, a not inconsequential phenomenon!  It


was stimulated in part by the invention of staining techniques, which made visible what was previously invisible even under the microscope.

Because I should by now have established that Foucault ascribes to the perspective of the new philosophy of science in which the different eras of science are established by reorganizations of seeing as, I shall not go into as great detail on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century epistemes, as in the previous examples.  As with any radical discontinuity, I would simply point out that the reorganization of the order of things includes the whole language-practice-perception gestalt.

In characterizing the discontinuity, it is interesting to note that just as large sectors and relations between things drop out between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there are vast eliminations and substitutions between the Modern and the nineteenth-century life sciences.  Foucault notes that these include such elements as “The parallelism between classification and nomenclature is thus... dissolved,” [80] and “To classify... will no longer mean to refer the visible back to itself.” [81]  Even the notion of Nature as conceived by natural histories radically changes:

“Nature,” too, disappears... as the homogeneous space of orderable identities and differences.  This space has now been dissociated and as it were opened up in depth.  Instead of a unitary field of visibility and order, whose elements have a distinctive value in relation to each other, we have series of oppositions, of which the two terms are never on the same level. [82]

Positive substitutions are those revealed by anatomies: functions, the similarities of organic processes which are identical in spite of radically different arrangements of bodily parts, a hierarchy of organs related to the different functions, etc.

With the new reemergence of the invisible, Foucault notes that something like a revival of “Medieval” relationality occurs.  A new system of configurations and signs pointing beyond themselves arises in the anatomical, functional sciences of biology.

The... propulsive limbs belong to the plan of the organic structure, but only as a secondary character!  They are therefore never eliminated, or absent or replaced, but they are “masked sometimes as in the wings of a bat and the posterior fins of seals”; it may even happen that they are “denatured” by use as in the pectoral fins of the cetaceans… You perceive that there is always a sort of constancy in the secondary characters in accordance with their disguise. [83]

Such occurs with the substitution of biology for natural history.  It is only by means of archeological foreshortening, Foucault argues, that we fail to see how thoroughly the Modern paradigm has disappeared.  It is


as archaic in the context of the contemporary as the Medieval order of knowledge was to it.

By now the parallelism of Foucault with Kuhn, without discounting either, since their interpretations were strictly contemporaneous, should be established.  I have not accentuated what could be equally important distinctions because the purpose here is to solidify what I take to be a certain underlying development of a praxis-perception model of interpretation which the new philosophy of science directs toward its subject matter.  And equally, I have tried to demonstrate that this model has been rather deeply ingrained in the Euro-American phenomenological traditions, with or without the recognition of the dominant philosophies in North America.

This has been a look at a certain moment in the rise of what I have called New philosophies of science.  And although I have suggested that there is an overlooked, forgotten background element which pervades even the New philosophy of science - science’s technologies - neither Kuhn nor his European counterparts advance that issue.  Also, if Kuhn and his European counterparts place science in a praxical context, even one marked by an appreciation of its perceptual dimensions, they still do not make the link to the embodiment of science which historically transformed Modern Science as a crucial element in either praxis or perception.

Guilty of this same oversight are those few philosophers who have begun to be interested in philosophy of technology out of the older strands of the philosophy of science.  I have already noted Bunge’s attempt to force what he calls technophilosophy into such a mode.  For Bunge, technology is to be placed under a nomological model of interpretation.  Thus, none of the predecessors put forth nor focus upon the more concrete aspects of human-technology praxis or perception.  The time has come to shift more directly to what might well be the roots of a philosophy of technology, in contrast with - but also in relation to - the new philosophy of science.