The Order of Things outlines western thought via discourse(s) by combining finite thought from power disciplines into grand narratives, or epistemes. The Order of Things seeks to bring the human sciences into bearing with larger epistemological structures of thought. These larger systems, (epistemes) are finite, observable, and follow certain rules. As such, at any given time our thought is dictated by episteme laws.
The Order of Things, similar to Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy was lambasted by critics who saw the work as too ambitious; relating multiple disciplines into a grand synthesis is unorthodox to specialized intellectuals. Nonetheless, Order of Things has great bearing on the Death of the Subject through isolating the rise of a discipline on “life.”
Knowledge and mans relation to knowledge always grasps towards the renaissance episteme, where objects had orbital relationships, where things corresponded with the cosmos in an intimate relationship- this power of language elevated the text to a status of preeminence, as in Don Quixote, the hero sought an adventure as a reification of his books. Experience in the world was found through a well balanced sign system through a discourse on language that saw all things related hermeneutically interrelated – this fact is adopted with great literary talent by Unberto Ecco in Foucault’s Pendulum. To know one thing, meant to know the finity.
The renaissance episteme faces multiple ruptures in contradistinction to the birth of institutional religion and ultimately to the birth of literature.
These ruptures brought language groupings into taxonomy, where an advanced language emerged based on pure representation, tied directly to early nineteenth century botany, naturalism, anthropology and so forth. Hence, the disciplines have an inherent interdependence to creating epistemes.
Out of this structuring of language in early 1800’s, language began to become rendered as being. This shift was intimately tied to nineteenth century humanist linguistics. Based on the dissemination of languages as the condition for a ‘demotion of language’ as an object, literature took on a completely different function that consisted, on the contrary, in ‘regrouping’ language and emphasizing a ‘being of language’ beyond whatever it designates and signifies, beyond even the sounds.
The lesson of Order of Things is that contemporary epistemes are transitory and we have at our disposal several cogent theoretical schools to adopt. Yet, we must view their roots in the grand dialectic of a tension between the incorporation of the enlightenment and the problem of that absorption into discourse. I.e. the entire project of the Frankfurt School. There is a funny irony in this instance, the discourse of language as representation yielded its opposite by exploding knowledge into finite subsets, while man’s relation to language became inverted from the episteme where knowledge was formerly wrapped up with myth as a centralizing principle for thought. Post structuralists and Lev-Straussians argue the enlightenmnet project rendered a reversion to myth through the grand narratives of multiple discourses operating interdependently, yet prevented from forming unity.
Enter the superfold: a continual striving of knowledge towards a status and relation to language that resembles the renaissance structure.
We are so far from it. The mathesis aspect to the Order of Things is the discourse on languges attempt to formulate perfect signs, (that are pure representations) not based in symbiotic theory, nor based in a calculus of Wittgenstinian language structure, but rather in a theory that postulates the emergence of signs in a chaotic system that are signifiers for identity and difference, (the two nodes of Hegels theory of self consciousness) and the looming specter of natures repeating ordering of subsets. So, man has created a transcendental-empirical double, as subject and object of the same knowledge, as the epistemological construct, that underlies modern thinking, there is here, as Richard Rorty would say, a non-dualist tendency under girding Foucault’s thought at this point.
Indeed Foucault’s non-dualism regarding the death of the subject begins with an existential ontology of man, which shares similarities to Nietzsche, roughly that: reality is largely dictated by social constructs. From that, we must also take the Foucauldian view of truth into account; that all truth is perspectival – another aspect that fits into the Nietzschean lexicon. Yet, after the theories on power and truth were more developed, one could sum up the social nature of truth as: there is no centered institutional truth, rather there are at any given time, mythological narrative constructs that man consciously extracts truth from. While man is consciously extracting truth from a mythological narrative, that narrative is mythic, hence in constant dailectic with the superfold..
Okay from that, we should identify that the death of God/man are closely linked, in the following way:
The declaration implies that if man can invent God, he can also disinvent God, which, though not conscious of it, man already had killed God, as the single and central divine ordering power to life. Furthermore, the statement entails a provocation towards fellow men, a challenge, to embrace the reemergence of a pantheon of man centered divinity – hence Nietzsche’s Dionysus and life ethic based on a nostalgic return to the Greeks. Funny enough it took Kauffman to dethrone this nostalgia from any Fascistic connection.
I think that this nostalgia of the death of God as leading to nihilism is largely misunderstood because I believe that nihilism is arguably non-existent post 1960’s as a cause of inter-generational struggles, which have interlocked individuals autonomous positions in the life-world. i.e. nihilism is typically consdiered to be a reevaluating, or a challenging of the values of a previous generation. Contemporary identity politics and post-modern relativism does explodes this situation as black and white, similar to the episteme around the turn of the twentieth century.
In the Genealogy of all Morals, Nietzsche’s theory about the emergence of God is very interesting: through anthropological and ethnological disciplines, God’s emerge cross-culturally as representations of spectres, or ancestors, and basically, out of fear within a culture, ancestors bring about God, and that once the archive of cultural ‘memory, ‘ (a direct tie in to the idea that reality is dictated by social constructs) transpires, a God is created to compensate for the ‘fear’ and loss of connection felt by the larger community with having lost that elusive ancestor/spectre, which is really an testament to the importance of any culture’s collective memory.