Here is a great interview (in French) with Alain de Libera on his conception of ‘archeology’ as a philosophical enterprise. De Libera is working on a monumental ‘archeology of the subject’ (volumes I and II have already appeared, but there is more on its way), and in this interview he discusses some of the main methodological aspects of the enterprise. He contrasts his approach with Foucault’s notion of archeology (see the classic L’Archéologie du Savoir), and also with the Nietzschean notion of genealogy.
I liked in particular the part where he describes how he came to develop the archeological approach at all. (De Libera is a great scholar of medieval philosophy, medieval logic in particular; La Querelle des Universaux is the definitive work on the history of the problem of universals, and this is only one of his many remarkable works.) He describes how, when working on the topic of sophismata, 75% of the relevant texts were of unknown authorship, and equally little was known about their time frame and location. (Scholars of medieval philosophy like to joke that Anon was really an extremely prolific author.) As a result, the author-based approach that still dominates the study of the history of philosophy was not a viable option:
Il s’agissait donc pour moi de construire une intrigue dont les protagonistes seraient non des personnes, mais des concepts, des problèmes, des règles et des arguments … (The point for me was to construct a story whose protagonists would not be people, but concepts, problems, rules or arguments…)
I see much of my historical work as an enterprise of ‘conceptual archeology’, as I described in a post earlier this year (the terminological coincidence is not really a coincidence: both for de Libera and for me, the inspiration is ultimately Foucault). But at this point I feel that a more sustained methodological discussion of this concept is needed for me, and de Libera’s work is just what I need right now. I hope that readers and co-bloggers interested in the role of history of philosophy for philosophical theorizing will find his ideas as inspiring as I do.
And while I'm at it, googling around has also taken me to an interesting article comparing Kant, Foucault and Agamben on philosophical archeology. Quite surprising to read that Foucault claims to have derived his conception of archeology from Kant!