A man with a wealth of ideas, French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was born on this day in Poitiers, the son of a physician. As a student, he was greatly inspired by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.
"Nietzsche was a revelation to me...I read him with great passion," Foucault explained. "Reading Nietzsche was the point of rupture for me."
Foucault's ideas covered a wide range of disciplines--history, literary criticism, human rights, and criminology. Core to his philosophy was the nature of power, knowledge, and language.
In Madness and Civilization (1961), he examined how madness was historically thought to be born of divine inspiration, not mental illness: "Madness is the absolute break with the work of art; it forms the constitutive moment of abolition, which dissolves in time the truth of the work of art."
According to Foucault, our identity is determined by our every day interactions. These interactions are ever-changing. Power is not owned, but only used. Shifting power creates equal and opposite reactions.
In his classic work Discipline and Punish (1975), he wrote, "In its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating."
A worldwide lecturer who collabored with Solidarity in Poland (1981), Foucault was also an esteemed professor at the Collège de France (1970–1984). "It is in vain that we say what we see," he said. "What we see never resides in what we say."
Let your ideas burst forth passionately.