Michael Foucault was born in 1926 and died in 1984 victim of AIDs. Foucault was a philosopher and a historian of great repute. He was French and had been associated with structuralist and post-structuralist movements. Philosophy is not only the discipline, in which he prospered in; some of his discussions bordered on medical and social analysis. Philosophy has always been the questioning of the exiting knowledge. However, Foucault was part of the new philosophers whose criticism revolved around knowledge. Thus, Foucault preferred to critic in such a way that the knowing powers were challenged and it was necessary to acquire the necessary knowledge of the same. Foucault utilized various critiques of historical reason including the history of madness, the history of prison, the history of modern sexuality, and the Archaeology and Genealogy history. This paper discusses the views of Foucault in relation to materiality, knowledge, truth, and power in the criticisms of the history of modern sexuality.
In this perspective, the history of sexuality by Foucault was first a general extension of the genealogical approach that preferred discipline on the topic of sexuality and also punishment as an avenue for deterring or avoids sexuality. According to Foucault there exists a need to enable the main bodies of knowledge to interact with the modern society and add information about sexuality. He was able to do this through various publications the first one, in 1976, focused on women, children and the population at large. These were controls in modern sexuality, and could be compared to controls against crime. Sexuality is part of the scientific disciple that offers new information while at the same time allowing a gain from such new information.
Accordingly, the sciences of sexuality have the power in knowledge; in in this area. Thus, individuals are controlled by the knowledge of other individuals while the individual persons should have power depending on the power of control by themselves. The individuals acquire different kinds of norms relating to the science of sexuality and internalize these norms in an effort to conform to the norms. Individuals are able to self-scrutinize oneself and conform to the norms without being forced to accept such norms. The discussions from Foucault are not very much philosophical, but the basic critics to claims of knowledge by the new historical method still remain.
According to Foucault, the disclosure of information is important as it creates a pool of knowledge. Individuals are made of the sum of their experiences, which gives a lot of power to such individuals; Information is thus very powerful; this is the same case as the power gained from years. The power of disclosure cannot be underestimated; most of the values in life are related to the necessary disclosure of information. Truth and morality are such value that will be as result of disclosure of information. The level of information acts as a benchmark in determining the values of an individual, a case in point is the level of education. When visualizing the concept of disclosure using a box of crayons; if we do not know a color in the box, we will reject the color on the instance. However, in case we know the color, we will put it among our choices. This illustration shows that the tendency to bring past knowledge into the present day decision making. It is natural to reject new knowledge and prefer to work with the things that one has previously acquired or the things that one believes are right. The main goal behind this argument is to criticize the way people function in fixed pools of knowledge with a rare need to question some norms or having a second thought on some matters in life.
Accordingly, information might be available from various sources. However, this information might not make any impact in the decision making of individuals in the case that there is no communication. Disclosure requires that there be communication and personal representation to one self. There are always challenges in achieving pure disclosure of all the information. Given Foucault’s arguments morality cannot be achieved naturally and it can only be created through power, which is having all the information. Foucault declared that when people understood their desires, through their desires, they will be forced to acquire new forms of relationships, love and creation. In the history of sexuality, Romans and Greeks discovered sexual ethics while, in sharp contrast, the Christians viewed sex as wicked. He found out that the Christians belief was that sex was meant for reproduction only, and punishment was effected in the case of indulgence in evil sexual activities.
According to Foucault’s repressive hypothesis, there were explosive discussions about sex using coded words which determined who you were taking to, where and when. The desire to talk about sex grew after the Catholic Church announced that followers could confess their sins. There were various ways in which the excitement was catapulted to the media, and everyone was talking about it. With the increasing population, governments were aware of the need of use of contraceptives. Thus, a need to change the information in the public about sexuality arose. The society changes with time, such that early on, people used to discuss the productive role sex has on the married. However, during the 19th century the discussions changed and they were focused on issues such as homosexuality, mentally ill, criminals and sexuality of children. As a result, there were major changes in society. The changes brought about the categorization of men who engaged in the same sex activities as homosexuals previously it was said they were committing sodomy. Those studying sexuality gained a lot of information on the subject they became powerful in society.
Thus, westerners seek more understanding about sexuality so as to develop information in this scientific discipline. Accordingly, the power controls of sexuality involve obedience, submission and subjugation and the need to create a pool for knowledge in this area. There are four rules to follow; the rule of immanence, the rule of continual variations whereby we look at the sexuality power in terms of power, the rule of double counting, and the rule of tactical polyvalence of discourses.
In conclusion, there is the need to acquire all the information about sexuality. As such, there is a need for communication of information. This will create a pool of knowledge and also generate power in relations to the discipline. Truth and morality will be based on the presence of information. However morality does not exist when there is lack of information. The approach towards the history of sexuality is such that the knowledge gained is multi-directional.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. Print.