restricted access Escaping the Conceptual Analysis Straitjacket: Pathological Mechanisms and Canguilhem’s Biological Philosophy

This essay discusses four key criticisms recently leveled against the main attempts to use conceptual analysis to understand health and disease. First, it examines the weaknesses of these attempts and suggests a better way to proceed. Next, it briefly discusses another disease debate concerning pathological mechanisms and suggests that this approach could be more fruitful than that of conceptual analysis. The final section demonstrates how Georges Canguilhem’s (1904–1995) biological philosophy of disease avoids some of the problems associated with conceptual analysis, and how he can contribute to both debates. Canguilhem’s appeal to biological normativity is understood as contributing to a theoretical explanation, and a possible naturalization, of what is specific to healthy and pathological phenomena.