Long time listeners and readers know that I’m a fan of Rick Roderick. For those who don’t know, he was from Texas, got his degree in philosophy from UT and taught at various places including Duke. He was a down home type who became famous to philosophiles through a couple of lecture series he published through The Teaching Company. (Home also to Mark’s crush Robert Solomon) They were filmed in the 90s and have subsequently been re-posted to various places on the web including youtube. He died way too young and had a checkered academic career (you can read more about that along with testimonials here) but as evidenced by his videos, was a great communicator and passionate about philosophy in society.
Roderick did a lecture series in 1993 called “The Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the 20th Century” covering Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault, Habermas, Heidegger, Sartre, Marcuse and Ricoeur. Roderick sets the question as follows:
- Current professional philosophy is “deflationary” in that it gives no answers to our larger questions, in particular our questions concerning our selves, our projects, our place in society and in the world.
- We have lost a vast resource of cultural meaning upon which we could draw to construct meaning for our lives. Meaning, in this large sense, can no longer be drawn unproblematic from religion. We have information, but not knowledge.
- We all strive to have a “theory” or narrative about our selves., we want to have a meaningful story about our lives that affirms our humanity. In short, we want them to mean something.
- The complex systems under which we live (economic, technological, global) have put the self”under siege”, overloaded with information and images that offer no meaning for us. We have difficulty making any sense out of our lives.
The Foucault text Roderick chose to focus on was Discipline & Punish. Situating Foucault via this text in a dialogue with these other thinkers is some kind of validation of the broad reach of the text and its importance in the stream of 20th century thought. All 5 parts of the Foucault lecture along with a transcript can be found here and I have embedded the first video below. A page on the whole series is here. I recommend you check out the whole series and his other recorded lectures as well.