Jack Foley


The problem with doing a book like this is that you’re always digging up new things which sometimes contradict what you thought you “had.” Nothing is “secure.”

 If you let yourself be too aware of the utter endlessness of the project, you’re lost—you’ll stop doing it—so you keep saying, “Ok, that’s fine, it’s finished now.” But of course there are many instances in which what seems to be “finished” turns out to be merely the beginning of something. You know the project is endless—and constantly getting away from you—but you do what you can to forget that fact. And you comfort yourself with the momentary, perhaps illusory insights that arise as you go through. Slippery history! 

 When songwriter/performer Marshall Barer blandly asked a young woman in his audience, “What’s your sign, dear?” she answered, “Slippery when wet!” Trying to write history is dealing with wet. That’s why historians so often rely on the work of “colleagues.” The work of others offers some foundation. But colleagues too are often nothing but apple carts waiting to be upset.

 I think that all this activity reflects that self-questioning which lies at the heart of Heidegger’s “Dasein”—a being which places its own being in question. It’s not that there is no “ground,” but that any “ground” you find is tentative, temporary, temporal. For many years, God was the Urgrund, the ground of grounds. But once God goes—and God is gone—innumerable grounds appear, each with its bit of truth and untruth:

Things are cast adrift, more or less like one another without any of them being able to claim the privileged status of “model” for the rest. Hierarchy gives way….
—James Harkness, introduction to Michel Foucault,
This is Not a Pipe (UC Press, 1983)

If there is any Urgrund in this book, it is the constantly changing, endlessly conflictive fabric of time.

                                    —Jack Foley on Visions and Affiliations