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French Philosophy TodayNew Figures of the Human in Badiou, Meillassoux, Malabou, Serres and Latour$
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Christopher Watkin

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414739

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414739.001.0001

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Catherine Malabou: The Plastic Human

Catherine Malabou: The Plastic Human

(p.77) Chapter 3 Catherine Malabou: The Plastic Human
French Philosophy Today

Christopher Watkin

Edinburgh University Press

The transition from Badiou and Meillassoux to Malabou leads us away from thinking the human in terms of a ‘host capacity’ and proposes instead a ‘host substance’: the brain. The first half of this chapter argues that Malabou manages to avoid a host capacity account of the human by developing a notion of plasticity not as a uniquely human trait but as the possible transformation of all traits. This position harbours an irreducible ambiguity, however, between an escape from the host capacity approach and its hyperbolisation, and so what Malabou offers us can be construed as nothing less than a host meta-capacity. The second half of the chapter explores Malabou’s determination to initiate a new plastic encounter between philosophy and neuroscience, eschewing both the ‘cognitivism’ of neuroscientist Jean-Pierre Changeux and the ‘Continental’ resistance to neuroscience of Paul Ricœur in order to elaborate her own ‘neuronal materialism’ in terms of ‘destructive plasticity’. In an attempt to develop this neuronal materialism in a way that avoids plasticity becoming one more defunct metaphor of the human, the chapter concludes by offering a reading of ‘the self’ in Malabou not as a metaphor but as a movement or tension of metaphoricity.

Keywords:   Catherine Malabou, Plasticity, Humanity, Neuroscience, Neurophilosophy, Metaphor, Paul Ricoeur

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