The Chomsky-Foucault Debate

On Human Nature

Two of the twentieth century’s most influential thinkers debate a perennial question

“[Chomsky is] arguably the most important intellectual alive.” —The New York Times

“Foucault . . . leaves no reader untouched or unchanged.” —Edward Said

In 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War and at a time of great political and social instability, two of the world’s leading intellectuals, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, were invited by Dutch philosopher Fons Elders to debate an age-old question: is there such a thing as “innate” human nature independent of our experiences and external influences?

The resulting dialogue is one of the most original, provocative, and spontaneous exchanges to have occurred between contemporary philosophers, and above all serves as a concise introduction to their basic theories. What begins as a philosophical argument rooted in linguistics (Chomsky) and the theory of knowledge (Foucault), soon evolves into a broader discussion encompassing a wide range of topics, from science, history, and behaviorism to creativity, freedom, and the struggle for justice in the realm of politics.

In addition to the debate itself, this volume features a newly written introduction by noted Foucault scholar John Rajchman and includes substantial additional texts by Chomsky and Foucault.

Books by these authors

Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology

Michel Foucault, James D. Faubion

Power
Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984

Michel Foucault, James D. Faubion

The Essential Foucault
Selections from Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984

Michel Foucault, Paul Rabinow, Nikolas Rose

Ethics
Subjectivity and Truth

Michel Foucault, Paul Rabinow