February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
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.
p. xxiii Preface to The Order of Things, Michel Foucault (English trans. 1970)
I read the short passage quoted above and spiraled instantly out, way up on top of us, bird’s eye view. Finite man. Young humanity. A blip – –
Yesterday I noticed that Facebook was celebrating its 10th birthday. I felt: profoundly youthful. A sense of wonder. Facebook has only been kicking 10 years. From that: an idea of profound youth, within our race. We will be, I imagined, early humans. Who may predict how things will escalate from here? (The scientists, maybe.) Faster and faster, increasingly complex. Technological, scientific development. Bang.
Who knows, maybe we’re old humans. Maybe we’ll ruin things quickly, now, quicker. Destroy ourselves soon. I don’t know. I feel — I feel on the edge of something; near the precipice. I can not say precisely why.
*Foucault published The Order of Things in 1966, which immediately became a bestseller in France, perhaps surprisingly given the level of complexity of the book (arguably his most difficult to read). It is an archeological study of the development of biology, economics and linguistics through the 18th and 19th centuries. It is in this book that he makes his famous prediction at the end that “man”, a subject formed by discourse as a result of the arrangement of knowledge over the last two centuries, will soon be “erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.” Less poetically and in the same book: “As the archeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of a recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.”