Home > bio-, filosoofia, Georges Canguilhem > Georges Canguilhem “A New Concept in Pathology: Error”

Georges Canguilhem “A New Concept in Pathology: Error”

Canguilhem, Georges 1991. The Normal and the Pathological. New York: Zone Books.

A New Concept in Pathology: Error

Disease is not a fall that one has, an attack to which one succumbs, but an original flaw in macromolecular form. If, in principle, organization is a kind of language, the genetically determined disease is no longer a mischievous curse but a misunderstanding. (278)

But it must not be forgotten that information theory cannot be broken down, and that it concerns knowledge itself as well as its objects, matter or life. In this sense to know is to be informed, to learn to decipher or to decode. There is then no difference between the error of life and the error of thought, between the errors of informing and informed information. The first furnishes the key to the second. (277)

Heredity is the modern name of substance. (280)

If there were a perfect, finished finality, a complete system of relations of organic agreement, the very concept of finality would have no meaning as a concept, as a plan and model for thinking about life, for the simple reason that there would be no grounds for thought, no grounds for thinking in the absence of all disparity between possible organization and real organization. The thought of finality expresses the limitation of life’s finality. If this concept has a meaning, it is because it is the concept of a meaning, the concept of a possible, and thus not guaranteed, organization. (281)

[…] to dream of absolute remedies is often to dream of remedies which are worse than the ill. (281)

To define abnormality in terms of social maladaptation is more or less to accept the idea that the individual must subscribe to the fact of such a society, hence must accomodate himself to it as to a reality which is at the same time a good. […] If societies are badly unified sets of means, they can be denied the right to define normality in terms of the attitude of instrumental subordination which they valorize under the name of adaptation. (283)

[…] the organism is not thrown into an environment to which he must submit, but he structures his environment at the same time that he develops his capacities as an organism. (284)

In the 1943 Essay we called „normativity” the biological capacity to challenge the usual norms in case of critical situations, and proposed measuring health by the gravity of the organic crises which are surmounted by the establishment of a new physiological order. (284-285)

We shall say that the healthy man does not become sick insofar as he is healthy. No healthy man becomes sick, for he is sick only insofar as his health abandons him and in this he is not healthy. The so-called healthy man thus is not healthy. His health is an equilibrium which he redeems on inceptive ruptures. The menace of disease is one of the components of health. (287)

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