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The Romantic Realism of Michel Foucault Returning to Kant



Beatrice Han argues that the theories of subjection (determinism: structure) and subjectivation (freedom: agency) are the “the blind spot of Foucault's work:” to the very end of his life, in being transcendental and historical theories, respectively, they were in irresolvable conflict. In part I, I have argued that Foucault encourages us to situate the theories of the subject in an un-thematized reach for a metaphysics of realism which, in effect, was to ground his uncertain complementary reach for a naturalist conduct of research. In part II I also argue that it is this fundamental feature of Foucault's Foucault that drives his returns to Kant, the purpose of which is to resolve the conflicting theories of the subject, and thus to solve his Giddensian problem of structure and creativity. Locating the returns and their purpose in my context of Science for Humanism and the recovery of human agency, I ultimately argue that Foucault's two special returns to Kant in order to solve his structure/agency problem led to two unfortunate solutions. The resort to Baudelair's aesthetic subject is a failed solution in so far as it regresses to being a pre-noumenal conception of the subject. The subsequent mere reinstatement of Kant's subject as causally empowered, minus the noumenalism, is nothing more than a reclamation of Kant's conception. Only the reconstruction of Foucault's realism permits us to assert that he could have moved beyond the reclamation of human agency to its recovery.