FREEDOM IN THE ARCHIVE: On Doing Philosophy through Historiography

  • Réal Fillion
Keywords: history, archive, sensibility, knowledge, conditions, subjectivity, objectivity, possibility, cognition, Idea, truth


It is argued in this article that Foucault’s most distinctive contribution to philosophical practice is to be found in his distinctive mode of taking up historiography, exploring critically the conditions and limits of knowledge through archival work. The focus on knowledge would seem to place him in the critical lineage of Kant; however, his appeal to history and archival explorations reconfigure the relation between sensibility and the understanding in a way that suggests a different concern with the conditions of “a possible knowledge.” After discussing how Foucault’s archival work engages a distinct sensibility, I suggest that his concern with knowledge can best be understood not within a transcendental project, however historicized, but within the logical space of Hegel’s Doctrine of the Concept, specifically the discussion of the Idea of cognition where it is a question of the twin processes of unifying subjectivity and objectivity as expressive of cognition’s “urge to truth.” Understood within this conceptual context, Foucault’s distinctive archival approach to what he calls “subjectivation” and “objectivation” allows us to appreciate the distinction between knowledge and truth in a way that leaves open the possibility of transformation.

Author Biography

Réal Fillion
Réal Fillion, PhDAssociate ProfessorDepartment of PhilosophyUniversity of


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Special Issue on Foucault and Philosophical Practice