It is Foucault’s only explicitly methodological work. Foucault also provides a philosophical treatment and critique of phenomenological and dogmatic structural readings of history and philosophy, portraying continuous narratives as naïve ways of projecting our own consciousness onto the past, thus being exclusive foucault archeology of knowledge pdf excluding.
Foucault argues that the contemporary study of the history of ideas, although it targets moments of transition between historical worldviews, ultimately depends on continuities that break down under close inspection. The history of ideas marks points of discontinuity between broadly defined modes of knowledge, but the assumption that those modes exist as wholes fails to do justice to the complexities of discourse. Foucault argues that “discourses” emerge and transform not according to a developing series of unarticulated, common worldviews, but according to a vast and complex set of discursive and institutional relationships, which are defined as much by breaks and ruptures as by unified themes. Foucault defines a “discourse” as a ‘way of speaking’.
During most of Archaeology, Foucault argues for and against various notions of what are inherent aspects of a statement, without arriving at a comprehensive definition. This concept of meaning differs from the concept of signification: Though an expression is signifying, for instance “The gold mountain is in California”, it may nevertheless be discursively meaningless and therefore have no existence within a certain discourse. For this reason, the “statement” is an existence function for discursive meaning.
Being rules, the “statement” has a special meaning in the Archaeology: it is not the expression itself, but the rules which make an expression discursively meaningful. These rules are not the syntax and semantics that makes an expression signifying.
In contrast to structuralists, Foucault demonstrates that the semantic and syntactic structures do not suffice to determine the discursive meaning of an expression. In short, the “statements” Foucault analysed are not propositions, phrases, or speech acts. Rather, “statements” constitute a network of rules establishing which expressions are discursively meaningful, and these rules are the preconditions for signifying propositions, utterances, or speech acts to have discursive meaning. Foucault’s analysis then turns towards the organized dispersion of statements, which he calls discursive formations.