Normative medicine is a new approach to health and disease based on Canguilhem’s philosophy: The normal and the pathological. In the past, disease was. Georges Canguilhem was a French philosopher and physician who specialized in Likewise, Foucault, in his introduction to Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological, wrote: Take away Canguilhem and you will no longer understand. The Normal and the Pathological is one of the crucial contributions to the history of science in the last half century. It takes as its starting point the sudden.

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The Normal and the Pathological: Medicine & Health Science Books @

But can we not, or must we not look for it in the living being himself? In France it is the history of science which has above all served to support the philosophical question of the Enlightenment: These questionings are those: Two centuries later the Enlightenment returns: Reason the despotic enlightenment. Thus he brought the history of science down from the heights mathematics, astronomy, Galilean me- chanics, Newtonian physics, relativity theory toward the middle regions where knowledge is much less deductive, much more dependent on exter- nal processes economic stimulations or institutional supports and thhe it has remained tied much longer to the marvels of the imagination.

He lives in a certain way ii.

That he has a relationship nkrmal his environment such that he does not have a fixed point of view of it iii. That he can move on an undefined territory iv.

That he must move about to receive information v. One way of living, not of killing life ii. One way of living in complete mobility and not immobilizing life iii. Showing, among these millions of noral beings who inform their environment and are informed from it outwards, an innovation which canguihem be judged trifling or substantial as you will iv. On the enormous calendar of life, truth is the most recent error ii.

True-false division and the value accorded truth constitute the most singular way of living which could have been invented by anc life which, ptahological its furthermost origin carried the eventuality of error within itself.

Error is the permanent chance around which the history of life and that of men develops iv. A Philosopher of Error: Phenomenology could indeed introduce the body, sexuality, death, the perceived world into the field of analysis; the Cogito remained central; neither the rationality of science nor the specificity of the life sciences could compromise its founding role.

It is to this philosophy of meaning, subject and the experienced thing that Canguilhem has opposed a philosophy of error, concept and the living being.

In a situation of irregularity, the experience of rules puts the regulatory pathologixal of rules to the test.

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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. Orthography [French, ortho- graphe, but long ago or- thographie], orthodoxy, orthopedics, are normative concepts prematurely. If the concept of orthology is less familiar, at least it is not altogether useless to know that Plato guaranteed it Sophist b Orthology is grammar in the sense given it by Latin and medieval writers, that is, the regulation of language usage. In other words, we are dealing with two modalities according to which phenomenol- ogy was taken up in France, when quite late – around – it finally began to be, if not known, at least recognized.


Contemporary philosophy in France began in those years. This is the question which Mendelssohn and then Kant tried to answer in in the Berlinische Monatschrift: They also opened philosophy up to a whole historico-critical dimension. And this work al- ways involves two objectives which in fact, cannot be dissociated and which incessantly echo one another: Knowledge belief; the scientific form of knowledge and the reli- gious contents of representation; or the transition from the pre-scientific or scientific; the constitution of a rational way of knowing on the ba- sis of traditional experience; the appearance, in the midst of a history of ideas and beliefs, of a type of history suitable to scientific knowledge; the origin and threshold of rationality – it is under this form, through positivism and those opposed to itthrough Duhem, Poincare, the noisy debates on scientism and the academic discussions about medieval science, that the question of the Enlightenment was brought into France.

And if phenomenology, after quite a long period when it was kept at the borden, finally penetrated in its turn, it was undoubtedly the day when Husserl, in the Cartesian Meditations and the Crisis The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, translated by David Carr, Evanston, Ill.

To remain close to these sciences which, from the Greeks to Leibniz, had, in short, been an integral part of philosophy, the history of science hid what it believed it was obliged to forget: Canguilhem has focused almost all his work on the history of biology and medicine, knowing full well that the theoretical importance of the problems raised by the development of a science are not perforce in direct proportion to the degree of formalization reached by it.

Thus he brought the history of science down from the heights mathematics, astronomy, Galilean mechanics, Newtonian physics, relativity theory to- ward the middle regions where knowledge is much less deductive, much more dependent on external processes economic stimulations or institu- tional supports and where it has remained tied much longer to the marvels of the imagination.

But in bringing about this shift, Canguilhem did more than assure the revaluation of a relatively neglected domain. He did not simply broaden the field of the history of science: That is, the concept insofar as it is one of the modes of this information which every living being levies on his environment and by means of which, on the other hand, he structures his environment. That man lives in a conceptually architectured environment does not prove that he has been diverted from life by some oversight or that a historical drama has separated him from it; but only that he lives in a certain way, that he has a relationship with his environment such that he does not have a fixed point of view of it, that he can move on an undefined territory, that he must move about to receive information, that he must move things in relation to one another in order to make them useful.

Canguilhem, who is at once close to and far from Nietzsche, would say perhaps that on the enormous calendar of life, it is the most recent error; he would say that the true-false division and the value accorded truth constitute the most singular way of living which could have been invented by a life which, from its furthermost origin, carried the eventuality of error within itself. Error for Canguilhem is the permanent chance around which the history of life and that of men develops.


It is this notion of error which allows him to join what he knows about biology to the way he works its history without ever having wanted, as was done at the time of evolutionism, to deduce the latter from the former.

It is this notion which allows him to mark the relation between life and the knowledge of life, and to follow, like a red thread, the presence of value and norm. I mean that it is in starting from error that he poses philosophical problems, I should say, the philosophical problem of truth and life. Here we touch on what is undoubtedly one of the fundamental events in the history of modern philosophy: And from then on it was one of the stakes of philosophical discussions: Or is it that it obliges us to pose this question differently?

Medicine seemed to us and still seems to us like a technique or art anr the crossroads of several sciences, rather than, strictly speaking, like one science. It seemed to us that the two problems which concerned us, that of the relations between science and technology, and that of norms and the normal, had to profit from a direct medical education for their precise position and clarification. This is the thesis according to tue pathological phenomena are identical to corresponding normal phenomena save for quantitative variations.

With this procedure we are yielding to a demand of philosophical thought to reopen rather than close problems. Leon Brunschvicg said of philosophy that it is the science of solved problems. We are making this simple and profound definition our own. Nature physiswithin man as well as without, is harmony and equilibrium. The disturbance of this harmony, of this equilibrium, is called disease. Of course, taking biological purposes into considera- tion must not exempt research from causal explanation.

In this sense the Kantian concept of finality is always relevant. Kant noted, more than likely around Likewise it is diseases which have stimulated physiology; and it is not physiology but pathology and clinical practice which gave medicine its start. The reason is that as a matter of fact well-being is not felt, for it is the simple awareness of living, and only its impediment pathologiical the force of resistance.

Pathhological is no wonder then that Brown begins by classifying diseases. Yet that is what we say literally – we say that the physician erred and the calculator and the schoolmaster. But the truth, I take it, is, that each of these in so far as he is that which we entitle him never errs; so that, speaking precisely, since you are such a stickler for precision, no craftsman errs.

For it is when his knowledge abandons him that he who goes wrong goes wrong – canguikhem he is not a craftsman. We shall say that the healthy man does not become sick insofar as he is healthy. Shaun Gamboa Concordia University Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Click here to sign up. Help Center Find new research papers in: