“Was Canguilhem a biochauvinist? Goldstein, Canguilhem and the project of ‘biophilosophy’"

Abstract

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. 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. In this paper I inquire if we should view Canguilhem and Goldstein as ‘biochauvinists’, that is, as thinkers who consider that there is something inherently unique about biological entities as such, and if so, of what sort.

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