Philosophy of Medicine

The image shows a collage of elements: on the left, an arched series of stills of a woman doing leg exercises. On the right, a chart showing various words in sign language. Near the bottom, a sign for "bad."

When I read Georges Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological for the first time, it struck me as odd that disability studies hasn’t more thoroughly taken up this text. Giving a full account of how Canguilhem’s work could be useful for the field and how it anticipated many crucial theoretical and tactical strategies for the disability movement are the goals of this project. Canguilhem’s call for vitalism – crudely put, an atavistic notion that what we call biology can be understood in terms of life forces instead of chemical determinism – shows how medicine’s pining for scientific authority might have rolled over important alternative ways of conceiving of the body and human difference. I argue that The Normal and the Pathological could be a substantive and methodological guideline for disability studies.