So I took Hans to his swimming lessons today. And in the locker room there’s one of those big curved mirrors allowing to see everything, to see around corners and down the locker rows, etc. Why? I don’t know. And so of course Hans asked what it was for, and I had no idea.
And when I have no idea, my thoughts turn to French theory. I thought of Michel Foucault’s examination of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon in the former’s justly famous Discipline and Punish. A panopticon is a prison design wherein the warden and his staff can see all prisoners at all times (pan=all, optics=seeing), and Foucault sees in this modernity shifting its attention in criminal punishment from the body to the soul, congratulating itself on its enlightened attitude to corrections when in reality its attitude is far worse than the bodily brutality one finds inflicted as punishment in the late medieval and early modern periods.
So anyway. I say to Hans, “I don’t know why they have that mirror in here, but someday when you’re a bit older I’ll teach you about the panopticon when we read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.”
Hans, my almost-five-year-old, replies:
NO! I DON’T WANT TO! YOU’RE TEASING ME! THAT WOULD BE HORRIBLE!
Hopefully Hans will be some sort of Thomist and reject theory for the right reasons, and this firm rejection isn’t simply a knee-jerk dismissal.