Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I suppose I should offer something about the title of this blog. A. It's a word that doesn't seem to be too overworked. B. It kind of fit my not particularly focused intellectual explorations.

I first learned "cafouillage" not long ago from a review in the Nation of a biography of Michel Foucault. Basically it means leaving things more confused than when you started. For Foucault, it was part of his method -- pulling at the threads of various ideas and traditions, exposing their instability. While the practice may not lead to coherent alternatives, it does promote a healthy mistrust of any sort of fixed ideas about the world and, I think, fosters a kind of meta-understanding where ideas are in play but don't become centralized, or subsumed into one's identity. A contemporary philosopher, Brian Cantwell Smith, would consider this part of the principle of irreduction (more on this later).

When I typed "cafouillage" into my computer's translator, the English equivalent it came up with was "misfire." I found that rather amusing and, perhaps, apt.


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