Foucault's Archaeological Method: Dispersing the Temporal Unity of Phenomenological Experience
ABSTRACT: This paper reads Foucault’s empirico-transcendental doublet from The Order of Things as his contribution to the tradition of transcendental critique. The motivations are twofold: (1) intervening in the scholarship on Foucault’s method that has largely dismissed archaeology in favour of genealogy; (2) revealing his unique account of temporality. The result is an elevation of archaeology over genealogy due to the former’s infamous yet often forgotten critique of phenomenology, out of which Foucault’s view of temporality emerges. Establishing Foucault’s philosophical lineage and his contemporaneous interlocutors is therefore of crucial importance, for it elucidates the conceptual armature that animates his methodology, helping us understand how it works and how it ought to work.
Foucault’s archaeological method is productive of the concept of temporality which manifests in the discontinuity of history and the dispersion of subjects of experience. Moreover, discontinuous temporality is Foucault’s ontological answer to the transcendental question of how conditions and the conditioned relate. Foucault’s innovative reply is that their relation lacks unity but is tenuously held together by the strained efforts of ‘historical man.’ The substance of this account is what distinguishes archaeology from phenomenology, despite their shared modality as transcendental critique. But, most importantly, Foucault thoroughly historicizes the transcendental, and he does not stop there: Foucault further argues for the immanence of the transcendental to the empirical in discontinuous temporality’s disintegration of experience. It is only through archaeology that this form of experience can be grasped, for it requires suspending the projective-retroactive synthesis of experience with the concepts of unity and continuity enacted by the constitutive subject of phenomenology.