These concepts are 10% incomprehensible

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I have never understood how anyone reads an entire book in one day. It seems to take me ages. I like to muse, make notes, ponder, make pots of coffee, think about what I’m reading, read something else that explains it (or simply adds to the confusion). If I’m enjoying what I’m reading, I like to re-read and savour, highlight and write in my journal – (  I really like this DayOne app at the moment – and then of course there’s the inevitable blog post, a neatened and slightly more coherent version of my notes. All the time I read and think – does this address what I want to explore, how does this help shape a line argument I want to develop, how does this compare to what other writers have said abut the subject, what precisely does this mean or imply? And then it strikes me – no wonder it takes a while to get to grips with.

Should I call it a day and give up? The truth is to be Doctoral and post-Doctoral requires the brain of a Rottweiler. Forget intelligence and talent. All it takes is an utter, sheer bloody minded determination. This book is an inanimate object: I wilt not let it beat me.

Two thoughts occur to me

a) Is Foucault being serious? I mean it. A colleague some months ago suggested:

Now, as Open Culture notes, Foucault admitted to his friend John Searle that he intentionally complicated his writings to appease his French audience. Searle claims Foucault told him: “In France, you gotta have ten percent incomprehensible, otherwise people won’t think it’s deep–they won’t think you’re a profound thinker.” When Searle later asked Pierre Bourdieu if he thought this was true, Bourdieu insisted it was much worse than ten percent. You can listen to Searle’s full comments below.

Wolters (2013) Foucault on Obscurantism: ‘The made me do it’ 

b) I really enjoy listening to someone speaking about their thing. When I read what they have written after hearing them speak, the ideas jump off the page and I feel like I’m talking to a person (does it matter that it is sometimes a dead person?) The nicest thing about talking to a person on paper – they nearly always agree with me.


Rabinow, P. (1997). Ethics, subjectivity and truth: The essential works of Foucault 1954-1984 (vol 1)


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