Law and Critique

, 20:211 | Cite as

Philosophical Archaeology

  • Giorgio Agamben


In the perspective of the philosophical archaeology proposed, here, the arkhé towards which archaeology regresses must not be understood in any way as an element that can be situated in chronology (not even one with a large grid, of the sort used in prehistory); it is, rather, a force that operates in history—much in the same way in which Indoeuropean words express a system of connections among historically accessible languages, in which the child in psychoanalysis expresses an active force in the psychic life of the adult, in which the big bang, which is supposed to have originated the universe, continues to send towards us its fossil radiation. But the arkhé is not a datum or a substance. It is much rather a field of bipolar historical currents within the tension of anthropogenesis and history, between point of emergence and becoming, between arch-past and present. And as such—that is to say, to the extent to which it is something that it is necessarily supposed to have factually happened, and which yet cannot be hypostatized in any chronologically identifiable event—it is solely capable of guaranteeing the intelligibility of historical phenomena, of ‘saving’ them archaeologically within a future perfect, yet not grasping its (in any case unverifiable) origin, but rather its history, at once finite and untotalizable.


Archaeology Human sciences History Foucault Freud Kant Melandri Overbeck 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giorgio Agamben
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawLondonUK

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