O Que Nos Faz Pensar (Apr 2018)

On machines and organisms. Canguilhem and the disguised aspects of Cartesian animal-machine

  • Rafael Henrique Teixeira

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 26, no. 41


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The purpose of this article is to discuss Canguilhem’s approach of Cartesian biology. More than a simple textual criticism, Canguilhem aims to demonstrate how, through the mechanical representation of the organism, a machine whose performance depends exclusively on the arrangement of its organs, Descartes was forced to incorporate refractory elements to a comprehensive mechanism to the mechanical elucidation of the living body, elements that Canguilhem observes in the technological anthropomorphism found in metaphysics that underlies the animal-machine theory. On the one hand, this point of view about Cartesian philosophy is a corollary of the Canguilhem’s biological philosophy of technique. On the other hand, it is related to an important topic of Canguilhem’s philosophy: the quest, in the history of knowledge about life, for elements that reveal the irreducible originality of life up against the theoretical attempts of its annexation to non-living models. Considering Cartesian philosophy, this effort is even more expressive, because it happens exactly where the mechanism seemed to provide the ultimate word about the aspects of life.