This article re-examines the closing sections of Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things in order to address the longstanding question of whether he is best understood as a philosopher or a historian. My central argument is that this question misses the crucial point of Foucault’s work, which is to historicize the notion of history (as it is traditionally understood, represented by History with a capital H), which Foucault takes to be central to the historical a priori of modernity. An examination of his historicization of History thus reveals that Foucault is neither simply a philosopher—because he conceives of philosophy in modernity as a historical enterprise— nor a historian—because his own historical approach is designed to transform the modern historical a priori from within. This analysis also sheds new light of Foucault’s relationship to psychoanalysis and his conception of critique.
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