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Philosophy, Animality and the Life Sciences$
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Wahida Khandker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748676774

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676774.001.0001

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From Animal-Machines to Cybernetic Organisms …

From Animal-Machines to Cybernetic Organisms …

(p.77) 4. From Animal-Machines to Cybernetic Organisms …
Philosophy, Animality and the Life Sciences

Wahida Khandker

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter begins with Canguilhem's analyses of the study of what he refers to, broadly, as ‘nonlife’: this includes the specific example of the ‘carrier of heredity’ used by Darwin to underpin his theory of evolution by natural selection, prior to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Canguilhem refers to ‘scientific ideologies’ as ideas that although not empirically demonstrable in themselves have, historically, served as the foundations for a number of scientific theories. The displacement of questions of ‘source’ of life or ‘final cause’ of a living organism in favour of questions about the conditions under which an organism functions optimally (the science of physiology) is achieved through a ‘devitalization of life’: or a renewed conception of living processes from the perspective of non-living phenomena, such as the process of crystallization. As an elaboration of this process of the ‘devitalisation’ of life, the chapter introduces the work of Donna Haraway, in her analysis of the concept of immunity not only as the shift that occurs from hierarchically organised body to living bodies as coded texts, but also as the problematization of the self-identity, individuality, and readability of the body, which the study of genetics has provoked.

Keywords:   Ideology, Cybernetic, Heredity, Georges Canguilhem, Donna Haraway

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