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

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.

Related Content:

Michel Foucault: Free Lectures on Truth, Discourse & The Self

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Free Online Courses in Philosophy

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by | Permalink | Comments (7) |

  • yoann

    Saw that a long time ago, but i never found the complete video. Where can you find it ?

  • Sca
  • Kevin Sparks

    Shuckles; it was somehow refreshing to see the odd ?? ‘proud nervousness’ – in tone, body lingo, and ‘decorum’ (the latter, particularly at very end) – to Chomsky’s innocent-enough and somewhat tacit exposing. This will not have been the only place where MF seems to want to ‘have the heart while eating it too.’ Foucault’s backed himself in here and -the horror- his interlocutor is too honest to ignore it. (Didn’t NC get the memo?!) MF attempts to ‘support’ revolution – with NO notion of justice or human nature – ‘turtles all the way down,’ it would seem.

  • walter

    Foucaul is outta sight for Chomsky.Period.
    No titans, no clash. I really enjoyed the LAD theory when i was a young student. Now im an old student and , well, Chomsky just dont happen.

  • The BBC Sucks BBCs

    My god 70s fashion sucked.

  • Nefer Ferreira Monteiro Nunes

    Totally agree.

  • Veronica Madariaga

    Astounded by them separately, together I lose insight and become a bystander in the attempt of a confrontation of two beautiful minds.