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Writings on Medicine

French Culture


At the time of his death in 1995, Georges Canguilhem was a highly respected historian of science and medicine, whose engagement with questions of normality, the ideologization of scientific thought, and the conceptual history of biology had marked the thought of philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu, and Gilles Deleuze.

This collection of short, incisive, and highly accessible essays on the major concepts of modern medicine shows Canguilhem at the peak of his use of historical practice for philosophical engagement. In order to elaborate a philosophy of medicine, Canguilhem examines paramount problems such as the definition and uses of health, the decline of the Hippocratic understanding of nature, the experience of disease, the limits of psychology in medicine, myths and realities of therapeutic practices, the difference between cure and healing, the organism’s self-regulation, and medical metaphors linking the organism to society.

Writings on Medicine is at once an excellent introduction to Canguilhem’s work and a forceful, insightful, and accessible engagement with elemental concepts in medicine. The book is certain to leave its imprint on anthropology, history, philosophy, bioethics, and the social studies of medicine.