Understanding Scholastic Thought With Foucault

I recently finished a book by Philipp W. Rosemann, entitled, Understanding Scholastic Thought with Foucault, and would highly recommend it to anyone with both medieval and postmodern sensibilities. Among the many topics and theses that Rosemann engages, the following were particularly interesting: (1) the presentation of a paradigm in which we understand the Western philosophical tradition in terms of the broad structure of a mythos/logos dialectic and scholastic thought with its sophia/moria dialectic reflects a moment within that larger context, (2) a discussion of the text-centeredness of the Scholastic culture and the conviction that though both the text of the world and the text of Scripture are to be read in light of their God given intelligibility, they are not exhaustible; hence, the “openness” of Scholastic thought which leads to more and more commentaries which together help us to gain more insight on the whole, yet never with the view to comprehension (3) an explanation of how St. Thomas convincingly brings together Greek circularity and Christian linearity, (4) a Foucaultian take on the need to understand an episteme’s “outside” in order to understand the episteme, (5) the “witch-hunt” as an example of the way in which the Scholastic episteme “closed the circle” and became irrationality, (6) a discussion of the “openness” of the quaestio vs. the new literary forms of e.g., Suarez, (7) an alternative take on Descartes [following Marion] and Luther both in respect to negative theology and the desire to safeguard God’s transcendence.

The book is exceedingly well-written, the ideas are presented with clarity and appeal, and Rosemann provides a helpful appendix entitled, “The Library of the Medievalist Philosopher.”

2 thoughts on “Understanding Scholastic Thought With Foucault”

  1. Interesting. Since I’m taking both Foucault and (probably) Aquinas seminars this fall (with both bearing on the diss), this could be quite helpful. I’m glad to see Foucault is being taken up on the question of historical methodology with this subject – too much (in religious studies) has been focused on his late work in biopower, sexuality, and the like. These are very important, but his critique of historical consciousness (to put in a way he would not) has not received enough attention. That would entail reading his hard methodology works – The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge – that usually get passed up in lieu of Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality (or worse, an anthology).

    But oy, that book is expensive! I’m not sure how I’m going to get my hands on that.

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