The life sciences and French philosophy of science: Georges Canguilhem on norms

Chimisso, Cristina (2013). The life sciences and French philosophy of science: Georges Canguilhem on norms. In: Andersen, H.; Dieks, D.; Gonzalez, W. J.; Uebel, T. and Wheeler, G. eds. New Challenges to Philosophy of Science. The Philosophy of Science in a European Perspective, 4. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 399–409.




Although in the last decades increasingly more philosophers have paid attention to the life sciences, traditionally physics has dominated general philosophy of science. Does a focus on the life sciences and medicine produce a different philosophy of science and indeed a different conception of knowledge? Here Cristina Chimisso does not attempt to give a comprehensive answer to this question; rather, she presents a case study focussed on Georges Canguilhem. Canguilhem continued the philosophical tradition that we now call historical epistemology, and always referred very closely to the philosophy of Gaston Bachelard. However, whereas Bachelard primarily studied the history of chemistry and physics, Canguilhem turned to the life sciences, medicine and psychiatry. Chimisso investigates their respective conceptions and uses of norms. Chimisso argues that some crucial differences in how they regarded norms, seldom emphasised by Canguilhem himself and indeed by critics, stem from the sciences on which they concentrated.

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