Politics of grammar: a comparison of Wittgenstein and Foucault
In this dissertation, I establish that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s and Michel Foucault’s thoughts share a common philosophical ethos of freedom which shapes the political dimensions of their works. As opposed to accusations on and interpretations of their works as suggesting and prescribing a conservative line of political thought, I argue that being shaped by the normative demands of the ethos of freedom, their thoughts resist such conservative understandings and press us to read and judge them in the medium of radical transformative politics. This is because while the conservative interpretations of their works diminish the range and effectiveness of Wittgenstein’s and Foucault’s philosophical claims on our political thought, the context of radical transformative politics allow us to appreciate and use their thoughts in a wider and richer range to politically articulate our concerns, discontents, and dissatisfactions. Such an ethos steers their thoughts towards an incessant questioning of the limits and constraints imposed on our lives by grammar and the discursive order. The ethos of freedom, in this sense, conveys a sense of politics as a battle against these false necessities that deny us a wide range of possibilities available in our human form of life. I call such a philosophical/political endeavor “politics of grammar” because both Wittgenstein and Foucault point to the level of the grammar of our concepts as the site in which these false necessities are formed and sustained. Accordingly, they both suggest that a critique of the grammar of our concepts is a critique of our form of life shaped by the constraints of our grammar. The form of this critique is therapeutic in the sense that it constantly reminds us of the historical contingency of such constraints rendering them accessible and available for political interventions and negotiations.