Foucault on descent – and, by way of implicature, the advantages of speaking a language secondarily

Posted on 29 Oct 2014.
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault Image by Verso Books.


Descent attaches itself to the body. It inscribes itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it appears in faulty respiration, in improper diets, in the debilitated and prostrate bodies of those whose ancestors committed errors. Fathers have only to mistake effects for causes, believe in the reality of an “afterlife,” or maintain the value of eternal truths, and the bodies of their children will suffer. Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Truth and Method, p82.

Is it no so, then, than speaking one’s first language entails, to Foucault, a certain relation to the nervous system, temper, digestion, etc., and when we acquire a second language these relations are altered? Should we ask how the mistakes of fathers are reproduced in second language acquisition (“you can’t say that!” or “that’s an improper subject-verb constellation!”, etc) – and the manner in which the element of grammer in our teachings serves to maintain a metaphysical relation to language (pace Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols, “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar”)?

is part of our task – finally – to reduce suffering?

About Torgeir Fjeld
I am a writer, publisher, and educational administrator with PhDs in Cultural Theory (Roehampton, 2012) and Philosophy (EGS, 2017). My latest books are Introducing Ereignis: philosophy, technology, way of life and Rock Philosophy. I have published many articles in journals such as Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, International Journal of Žižek Studies, Teaching Philosophy, Journal of Silence Studies in Education, and Oxford Left Review. I am currently Head of the Ereignis Center for Philosophy and the Arts, Publisher at Tankebanen forlag, and Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Inscriptions. I have taught at many universities in North America, Europe, and Africa, including the University of Minnesota, Roehampton University, the University of Gdańsk, and the University of kwaZulu/Natal. On this page you will find a section entirely dedicated to poetry in translation. This page has a cookie policy.
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