“One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area — European culture since the sixteenth century — one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledges prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities differences, characters, equivalences, words — in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same — only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.
If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility — without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises — were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea” (The Order of Things p.386-387).
I remember reading Michel Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge during university, but never got around to The Order of Things. Wondering about the crux of the book I stumbled upon this lengthy summary from Huzeyfe Kıran. I was left thinking about archeology in relation to my Honours thesis on psychoanalysis and the way in which what we talk about when we talk about psychoanalysis.