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Writings on Medicine

Georges Canguilhem

Publication Year: 2012

At the time of his death in 1995, Georges Canguilhem was a highly respected historian of science and medicine, whose engagement with questions of normality, the ideologization of scientific thought, and the conceptual history of biology had marked the thought of philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu, and Gilles Deleuze. This collection of short, incisive, and highly accessible essays on the major concepts of modern medicine shows Canguilhem at the peak of his use of historical practice for philosophical engagement. In order to elaborate a philosophy of medicine, Canguilhem examines paramount problems such as the definition and uses of health, the decline of the Hippocratic understanding of nature, the experience of disease, the limits of psychology in medicine, myths and realities of therapeutic practices, the difference between cure and healing, the organism's self-regulation, and medical metaphors linking the organism to society. Writings on Medicine is at once an excellent introduction to Canguilhem's work and a forceful, insightful, and accessible engagement with elemental concepts in medicine. The book is certain to leave its imprint on anthropology, history, philosophy, bioethics, and the social studies of medicine.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Forms of Living

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

We would like to acknowledge the undertaking assumed by Armand Zaloszyc in organizing the original volume by Éditions du Seuil. Thanks go to Warren Breckman, Michael Carhart, and Allan Megill for their editorial interventions to an earlier draft of the introduction and to Helen Tartar and Bud Bynack at Fordham University Press ...

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Introduction: Georges Canguilhem’s Critique of Medical Reason

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pp. 1-24

At the time of his death in 1995, Georges Canguilhem was a highly respected epistemologist and historian of biology and medicine. He was known for having extended and transformed traditions set by Gaston Bachelard and Henri Bergson, and as an influential figure for generations of scholars, including Michel Foucault, Franc¸ois Dagognet, Louis Althusser, ...

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1. The Idea of Nature in Medical Theory and Practice

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pp. 25-33

One may wonder whether the doctor-patient relationship has ever succeeded in being a simple, instrumental relation that could be described in such a way that the cause and the effect, the therapeutic gesture and its result, would be directly related one to the other, on the same plane and at the same level, without being mediated by something foreign to its space of intelligibility. ...

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2. Diseases

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pp. 34-42

At the beginning of his Essays on Painting, Diderot writes: ‘‘Nature does nothing incorrectly. Every form, beautiful or ugly, has its reason; and of all the beings that exist, there is not one that is not as it must be.’’1 One can imagine an Essays on Medicine that would begin with: ‘‘Nature does nothing arbitrarily. ...

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3. Health: Popular Concept and Philosophical Question

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pp. 43-52

"Who among us did not speak of what is healthy and what is harmful before the arrival of Hippocrates?’’ This is how Epictetus, in his Discourses, argues for the popular pertinence of an a priori notion of the healthy and of health—a health whose relation to objects or behavior, moreover, he considers to be uncertain.1 ...

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4. Is a Pedagogy of Healing Possible?

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pp. 53-66

Understood as an event in the doctor-patient relationship, healing is at first sight what the patient expects from the doctor, but not what he always obtains from him. There is thus a discrepancy between the patient’s hope regarding the power that he attributes to the doctor on the grounds of the latter’s knowledge and the doctor’s recognition of the limits of his own efficacy. ...

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5. The Problem of Regulation in the Organism and in Society

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pp. 67-78

When my friend Pierre-Maxime Schuhl1 asked me to lecture at a meeting of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, I accepted gladly and with great pleasure; it is an honor for me, and I only regret having had to pose this one condition—for which I apologize—which resulted in us meeting at a time so out of the ordinary. ...


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pp. 79-100


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pp. 101-104

Further Reading

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pp. 117-118

E-ISBN-13: 9780823253654
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823234318
Print-ISBN-10: 0823234312

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Forms of Living