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Sartre, Foucault, and Historical ReasonA Poststructuralist Mapping of History$
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Thomas R. Flynn

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780226254708

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226254722.001.0001

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Foucault and Historical Nominalism

Foucault and Historical Nominalism

(p.31) Chapter Two Foucault and Historical Nominalism
Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason
University of Chicago Press

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

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

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