Friday, March 15, 2013

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature & Power on Dutch TV, 1971

Foucault on left, Chomsky on right

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, television was not simply a wasteland of brain-numbing stupidity - in this far away land in a far away time, television actually presented intelligent people having intelligent conversations about important topics.

Weird, huh? How un-American.

In this cool find from Open Culture (again), Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault discuss human nature, power, and the ways language and culture might shape who we are as human beings. Now that is "Must See TV."

The first two clips are excerpts, but they have the needed subtitles (unless one is multilingual). The bottom video contains the whole debate, sans subtitles, but one can follow along with the full transcript of the debate, available for free at the link.

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature & Power on Dutch TV, 1971

March 14th, 2013

Today, we’re revisiting the clash of two intellectual titans, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault. In 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War, the American linguist and the French theorist/historian of ideas appeared on Dutch TV to debate a fundamental question: Is there such a thing as innate human nature? Or are we shaped by experiences and the power of cultural and social institutions around us? The thinkers answered these questions rather differently, giving viewers a fairly succinct introduction to their basic theories of language, knowledge, power and beyond.

42 years later, you can watch the debate on YouTube in parts or in its entirety. Above you will find two excerpts that show you the highlights, complete with subtitles. Below you can watch the entire debate, from start to finish — though, unfortunately, no subtitles are provided. There is one good workaround, however. You can read a full transcript of the debate online (it’s entirely in English), or purchase a copy in book format.

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