Pascalian Meditations

Pascalian Meditations

Pierre Bourdieu

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 0804733325

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

A synthesis of forty years' work by France's leading sociologist, this book pushes the critique of scholarly reason to a new level. It is a brilliant example of Bourdieu's unique ability to link sociological theory, historical information, and philosophical thought.

Pascalian Meditations makes explicit the presuppositions of a state of "scholasticism," a certain leisure liberated from the urgencies of the world. Philosophers, unwilling to engage these presuppositions in their practice, have brought them into the order of discourse, not so much to analyze them as to legitimate them. This situation is the primary systematic, epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic error that Bourdieu subjects to methodological critique.

This critique of scholarly reason is carried out in the name of Pascal because he, too, pointed out the features of human existence that the scholastic outlook ignores: he was concerned with symbolic power; he refused the temptation of foundationalist thinking; he attended (without populist naïveté) to "ordinary people"; and he was determined to seek the raison d'être of seemingly illogical behavior rather than condemning or mocking it.

Through this critique, Bourdieu charts a negative philosophy that calls into question some of our most fundamental presuppositions, such as a "subject" who is free and self-aware. This philosophy, with its intellectual debt to such other "heretical" philosophers as Wittgenstein, Austin, Dewey, and Peirce, renews traditional questioning of the concepts of violence, power, time, history, the universal, and the purpose and direction of existence.

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inculca­ tion have deposited in people's bodies. But to observe that symbolic power can only operate to the extent that the conditions of its efficacy are inscribed in the very struc­ tures that it seeks to conserve or to transform is not to deny it independence with respect to these structures. By bringing diffuse experiences to the full existence of 'publication' and consequent officialization, this power of expression and manifestation intervenes in that uncertain site of social existence

together analysis of the conditions of access to the scholastic posture, helped me greatly to become aware of the effects of the gap between the intention of the questioner and the extrascholastic preoccupations of the respondents, which is the source of the distortions performed by the self-blind questioning the doxosophers 5 (apparent experts in appearances who can deceive other 'semi-experts' - journalists or politicians - only because they deceive themselves). The method adopted in the survey

thinkable and the unthinkable, the prescribed and the proscribed, it must remain unthought. Being the matrix of all the pertinent questions, it cannot produce the questions that could call it into question. Each field, like the Pascalian 'order', thus involves its agents in its own stakes, which, from another point of view, the point of view of another game, become invisible or at least insignificant or even illus­ ory: 'All the glory of greatness has no lustre for people who are in search of

ones, like the worlds of art or science. Each of them has its 'fundamental law', its nomos (a word that is normally translated as 'law' and would be better rendered as 'constitution', a term which better recalls the arbit­ rary act of institution, or as 'principle of vision and division', which is closer to the etymology).6 There is nothing to be said of this law, except, with Pascal, that 'it is law, and nothing more.' It is only stated (on the rare occasions when it is stated at all) in the

fields in terms of the motivations engaged in it, the scientific field stands quite apart from them in terms of the con­ straints (for example, the principle of contradiction, implied in the necessity of submitting oneself to the test of controversy) which an agent has to accept in order to secure the triumph of his passions or interests, those of the censorship imposed by cross-control that is exercised through armed competition. The necessity is a quite specific one, itself arising from a quite

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