Canguilhem 2008

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Canguilhem, Georges. Knowledge of Life. Trans. by Stefanos Geroulanos and Daniela Ginsburg. Ed. by Paola Marrati and Todd Meyers. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

Experimentation in Animal Biology

experiments on muscles -- given significance through their history

  • "In short, we find our modest and dry lab-exercise experiment come into relief against a permanent backdrop of biological signification." (5)

Bernard: "biological functions can only be discovered through experimentation" (6); knowledge of the "inner milieu" (7)

"Bernard targets an anatomical prejudice that goes back as far as Galen's De usu partium (On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body), according to which the mere inspection of an anatomical detail permits the categorical deduction of its function. He demonstrates that this principle could perhaps be applied to those organs in which man thinks (reasonably or not) that he recognizes the forms of instruments he has fabricated (the bladder is a reservoir; the bone is a lever). But even in the few and grossly approximative cases of this kind, ti is man's experience of these utensils' role and use in human practice that founds the analogical attribution of their function to these organs. In short, anatomo-physiological deduction always overlies experimentation." (6)
"So long as scientists conceived of organs' functions within the organism in the image of organisms' functions in the external milieu, it was natural for them to borrow the basic concepts, the guiding ideas of biological explication and experimentation from the pragmatic experience of the human living being, since it is a human living being (as living being( who is, at the same time, a scholar curious about theoretical solutions to the problems life poses by the very fact of its exercise. ... that is why, no matter whether the biologist assumed a finalist or a mechanist perspective, the concepts originally used to analyze the functions of tissues, organs or apparatuses were unconsciously charged with a properly human pragmatic and technical import."

Cell Theory