Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 7 (2):187-203 (2010)

Authors
Mary Beth Mader
University of Memphis
Abstract
The paper treats several ontological questions about certain nineteenth-century and contemporary medical and scientific conceptualizations of hereditary relation. In particular, it considers the account of mid-nineteenth century psychiatric thought given by Foucault in Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1973–1974 and Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974–1975 . There, Foucault argues that a fantastical conceptual prop, the ‘metabody,’ as he terms it, was implicitly supposed by that period’s psychiatric medicine as a putative ground for psychiatric pathology. After presenting the heart of Foucault’s thought on the ‘metabody,’ the paper investigates the possibility that a contemporary version of a ‘metabody’ may operate today as a conceptual analog of the nineteenth-century psychiatric theory and practice that Foucault began to expose in the texts examined here. It speculates that we might identify a contemporary genetic version of a ‘metabody’ in a particular current conception of the gene as replicator, an item marked by an ambiguous temporal ontology.
Keywords Philosophy  Ethics  Ontology  Etiology  Heredity  Genetics  Somatization  Metasomatization
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DOI 10.1007/s11673-010-9237-3
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