As the work of thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Francois Jacob, Louis Althusser, and Pierre Bourdieu demonstrates, Georges Canguilhem has exerted tremendous influence on the philosophy of science and French philosophy more generally. In Knowledge of Life, a book that spans twenty years of his essays and lectures, Canguilhem offers a series of epistemological histories that seek to establish and clarify the stakes, ambiguities, and emergence of philosophical and biological concepts that defined the rise of modern biology.
How do transformations in biology and modern medicine shape conceptions of life? How do philosophical concepts feed into biological ideas and experimental practices, and how are they themselves transformed? How does knowledge "undo the experience of life so as to help man remake what life has made without him, in him or outside of him?" Knowledge of Life is Canguilhem's effort to explain how the movements of knowledge and life come to rest upon each other.
Published at the dawn of the genetic revolution and still pertinent today, the book tackles the history of cell theory, the conceptual moves toward and away from mechanical understandings of the organism, the persistence of vitalism, and the nature of normality in science and its objects.
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Number of pages: 200
Weight: 318 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
After reading these essays, one might well ask, as Canguilhem did, 'What are the presuppositions that drive contemporary interpretations of science?' Currently, few seem to be asking that question . . . Canguilhem presents a metaphysical quandary that remains as vital today as when he wrote 60 years ago. * -Isis *
Fordham University Press has done a splendid job in making available to the English-speaking public as an affordable paperback one of Canguilhem's most important contributions to the history and philosophy of biology... Each essay [in Knowledge of Life] presents a detailed epistemological history of a specific biological problem, concept, or idea in order to advance a particular philosophical thesis... Canguilhem's writing is truly exemplary in its seamless integration of deep historical insight and subtle philosophical argumentation... What strikes the contemporary reader upon reading these essays, besides their remarkable erudition and scholarly depth, is how pertinent they continue to be half a century after they were written. The epistemological lessons that Canguilhem draws from his detailed excursions into the history of biology resonate strongly with the current philosophy of biology agenda. Moving beyond its traditional concern with evolutionary biology, and with population genetics in particular, Anglophone philosophy of biology is increasingly engaging with areas of biological inquiry specifically concerned with the constitution and organization of living systems. In this context, Canguilhem's plea for the autonomy of biological method as well as biological theory has never been more relevant. Those who decide to pick up Knowledge of Life will find the writing dense, the arguments subtle, but the effort extremely worthwhile. * -Annals of Science *
An exceptional grasp of the enduring philosophical problems of biological research. -- -Harry Marks * The Johns Hopkins University *