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

  • Charles T. WolfeEmail author
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 120)


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. 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.


Existential Dimension Philosophical Anthropology Mainstream Science Folk Intuition Epistemic Privilege 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Versions of this paper have been presented at the Workshop on The Normal and the Pathological, University of Warwick, September 2011; Canguilhem’s Philosophy of Life, KU Leuven, June 2012. I thank the organizers and audiences of those events, and Pierre-Olivier Méthot for their helpful comments.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sarton Centre for History of Science, Department of Philosophy and Moral ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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