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Un Ecart Infime (Part I): Foucault's Critique of the Concept of Lived-Experience ( Vécu)

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image of Research in Phenomenology

In this essay, I start from Foucault's last text, his "Life: Experience and Science." Speaking of Canguilhem, Foucault makes a distinction between "le vécu" (lived-experience) and "le vivant" (the living). I then examine this difference between "le vécu" (lived-experience) and "le vivant" (the living); that is, I examine the different logics, we might say, of immanence that each concept implies. To do this, I reconstruct the "critique" that Foucault presents of the concept of vécu in the ninth chapter of The Order of Things (Les Mots et les choses): "Man and His Doubles." I try to show how this critique applies to the early Merleau-Ponty, the Merleau-Ponty of the Phenomenology of Perception. Then, I construct the positive logic of Foucault's relation of immanence by means of another text, which is contemporaneous with Les Mots et les choses: This is not a Pipe. The critique of the concept of vécu is based on the fact that the relationship in vécu is a mixture (un mélange) that closes "un écart infime." Conversely, Foucault's conception of the relationship in "le vivant" is one that dissociates and keeps "l'écart infime" open. At the end, I suggest, through three "landmarks," how Foucault's critique might be applied to the later Merleau-Ponty. This essay is Part I of a trilogy on Merleau-Ponty and Foucault. Part II concerns Merleau-Ponty's "mixturism," while Part III concerns "the blind spot" in Foucault. These three texts complete the work necessary to open the problem of memory and life.


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