The French historian-philosopher (or ‘historical epistemologist’) of the life sciences Georges Canguilhem is known to have regretted, with some pathos, that Life no longer serves as an orienting question in our scientific activity. He also frequently insisted on a kind of uniqueness of organisms and/or living bodies – their inherent normativity, their value-production and overall their inherent difference from mere machines, including in his best-known publication, The Normal and the Pathological (1943, revised 1966). In addition, Canguilhem acknowledged a major debt to the German neurologist-theoretician Kurt Goldstein, author most famously of The Structure of the Organism in 1934; along with Merleau-Ponty, Canguilhem was the main figure who introduced the work of Goldstein and his ‘phenomenology of embodiment’ into France. Here, I reflect on the extent to which Goldstein and Canguilhem contributed, or can be seen as contributing, to a non-reductionist philosophy of life, or philosophy of biology (something Marjorie Grene, who I shall not speak about, was also committed to, in her case with more reference to philosophical anthropology). This non-reductionist philosophy of biology briefly had its own label: ‘biophilosophy’.

Was Canguilhem a Biochauvinist? Goldstein, Canguilhem and the Project of Biophilosophy

Charles Wolfe
2015

Abstract

The French historian-philosopher (or ‘historical epistemologist’) of the life sciences Georges Canguilhem is known to have regretted, with some pathos, that Life no longer serves as an orienting question in our scientific activity. He also frequently insisted on a kind of uniqueness of organisms and/or living bodies – their inherent normativity, their value-production and overall their inherent difference from mere machines, including in his best-known publication, The Normal and the Pathological (1943, revised 1966). In addition, Canguilhem acknowledged a major debt to the German neurologist-theoretician Kurt Goldstein, author most famously of The Structure of the Organism in 1934; along with Merleau-Ponty, Canguilhem was the main figure who introduced the work of Goldstein and his ‘phenomenology of embodiment’ into France. Here, I reflect on the extent to which Goldstein and Canguilhem contributed, or can be seen as contributing, to a non-reductionist philosophy of life, or philosophy of biology (something Marjorie Grene, who I shall not speak about, was also committed to, in her case with more reference to philosophical anthropology). This non-reductionist philosophy of biology briefly had its own label: ‘biophilosophy’.
Medicine and Society, New Perspectives in Continental Philosophy
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3719554
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