Philosophize This w/ Stephen West

I’m surprised that I haven’t come across this podcast from people I follow or know more often. I’ve learned more about philosophy from Stephen’s podcasts than any book I’ve read or course in college. He’s over a hundred episodes into his exposition and exploration of philosophy, and he’s covered a huge swath of the territory from Socrates up through the renaissance, and well into postmodernism.

I’d highly recommend his multi-part series on Foucault. I found Foucault extremely difficult to read as an amateur (okay impossible), but West did an amazing job of explaining some of Foucault’s most significant contributions (punishment and its evolution, surveillance, normalization, examination, the Panopticon, normality/abnormality, and that’s just part 1). A few choice excerpts from that series below.

  • The three…prongs…of this three pronged method that is used to keep prisoners in line…are what Foucault calls: Surveillence, Normalization, and Examination. That is…Constant surveillance of the prisoners…which combines nicely with normalization…or a normalized standard of how a good prisoner should be thinking and behaving that has been given to you by the people in power…and both of these work nicely with a constant process of examination and re-examination where people in positions of power give you a score or a grade determining how well you’re corresponding with that way of behaving that we’ve decided a good prisoner should be a reflection of. “
  • “Now some of you out there might be thinking: why are we going on so much about the history of criminals? What does this have to do with philosophy? What relevance does this have to me whatsoever? Well, if you’re someone that’s thought that all we’ve been talking about so far on this episode are methods we’ve developed over the years for controlling… only prisoners…Foucault would probably say I hope you’ve been paying attention to the details of what’s been said so far…because when Jeremy Bentham sits down and creates the design of this Panopticon of his…hes not just talking about the ideal structure of a prison…and what follows from that is that Foucault is NOT JUST talking about the evolution of methods that we’ve developed to control prisoners.”
  • “In other words, in both centuries we’re studying the same disease, you could have the same exact patient in both periods, but when the fundamental language we use to describe the illness changes, so too does the way that we see the illness and the patient and the task of the doctor and really some pretty important things about the way that we see the world!”

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