on biography (3)
Karl Popper & Michel Foucault
looking suitably philosophical.
After reading Didier Eribon’s biography of Foucault, I turned with some relief to Karl Popper’s memoir Unended Quest. The biography of Foucault was maddening because it did what good biographies should do, and didn’t speculate, especially where speculation was warranted. Popper, meanwhile, positively disinvites speculation. There’s nothing to speculate about; he grinds through ideas with all the emotional engagement of a mangle.1 As a personality I cannot decide if he was charming or rather dull; perhaps he was both. It’s not important to him, though, which makes his memoir that much more of a treat. Even the dramatic highpoint, pokers aloft, is less fraught with drama than one of Foucault’s minor editorials.2 That is the beauty of the self-made man, to be dull without worry: he has nothing more to prove. False corollary: the beauty of the self-destructive man, to be interesting without reason: unreasoning.3
- This is a talent not to be despised, mind, and not one that I possess or have much patience for.
- On the Iranian revolution, say; about which one can say that perhaps Foucault was logically right, but morally wrong, if one wants to be even that kind about it (pp. 281–92).
- Cf. Wittgenstein; cannot really say MF was self-destructive, though: too politic for that.