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Georges Canguilhem: Norms and knowledge in the life sciences.

Brilman, Marina C (2009) Georges Canguilhem: Norms and knowledge in the life sciences. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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In the second half of the twentieth century, the interest of the social sciences in the life sciences has intensified. This intensification might be explained through the idea that, as Michel Foucault puts it, what defines modem rationality is the entry of 'life' into regimes of knowledge and power. I argue that this 'entry' can be traced back to the work of Immanuel Kant. He established the autonomy of reason by simultaneously including and excluding life from reason. Kant explained the emergence of reason by likening it to a biological process but then excluded such processes from reason through his notion of the 'lawfulness of the contingent'. I argue that this two-pronged approach leads to a recurring negotiation of the relation between life and knowledge in the contemporary life and social sciences. I argue that it was not Foucault who directly engaged with how the life sciences lie at the heart of modern rationality. Rather, it was the French philosopher and historian of science Georges Canguilhem. I argue that he questioned modern rationality by inquiring into some of its most fundamental epistemological or discursive forms. In order to illustrate this, I address his inquiry into the concepts of environment, individuality, knowledge or information, and normativity. The potential of these concepts to migrate across disciplinary boundaries is indicative of the fact that the productivity of Canguilhem's work extends far beyond the life sciences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy of Science
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Law

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