Preparatary notes for Exercise 3.6: Misrepresentations

Conditions for Critical Thinking

In an earlier post on the relativism in context of ‘fake news’ and divergent opinions and the challenges in postmodern education I reflected an article in the Swiss newspaper NZZ (Otto, 2017) – click here.

This seems to be quite spot on the for my answer of the question of misrepresentations in a socially constructed world. Postmodern and post-structuralist thinkers placed a notion of relational relativism in the world where one might get the idea that all is right and all is wrong – but nothing really matters. How can a dialogue or even communication on diverse opinions or beliefs exist?

Michel Foucault expresses his view of maintaining a profound and radical scepticism (Mills, 2004, p.112)

“to give some assistance in wearing away certain self-evidences and commonplaces about madness, normality, illness, crime and punishment; to bring it about, together with many others, that certain phrases can no longer be spoken so lightly, certain acts no longer, or at least no longer so unhesitatingly performed; to contribute to changing certain things in people’s ways of perceiving and doing things; to participate in this difficult displacement of forms of sensibility and thresholds of tolerance. ” – M. Foucault


Foucault expresses here the unease and challenge of perceiving and conceiving ideas and speeches. Although a certain tolerance need to be at place, it goes further than pure relativeness and arbitrariness of argumentation.

Sarah Mills (2004, pp.110-116) outlines Foucault’s analytical method of applying a sceptical position in a few bullet points:

  1. Draw on archives: to widen ones area of the discourse, to find possible forms of expression
  2. Be Sceptical: be critical of ones own judgement of position, to suspend judgement while analysing
  3. Don’t make second order judgements: don’t adopt judgements by others, but stay with ones own judgement
  4. Look for contingencies rather than causes: to avoid referring to causalities where there might be various reasons to lead to an event
  5. Investigate problems rather than a subject: be aware of subject discussions that may have already built in a judgement or political position
  6. Don’t overgeneralise from your findings: Not to universalise doesn’t mean that something said is not of importance.


A persuasive list of going through to find ones argumentation. It encourages to apply lateral thinking. I believe that it became kind of mainstream in developing critical and creative thinking skills in education (‘mass customization of learning experience’ – Professional School of Psychology or Kwak, 2008), problem solving in general as well as innovative thinking (see Ladder of Inference by Chris Argyris and later by Peter Senge). Nevertheless, one need to consider this as a method that may be effective in one case, but not in another. And not all topics in life are problem solving activities. An issue that I addressed in my assignment 2 as critique towards Modernism.



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