Jump to main content

  1. Understanding living beings by analogy with computers or understanding computers as an emanation of the living

    Understanding living beings by analogy with computers or understanding computers as an emanation of the living

    trópoς. Rivista di ermeneutica e critica filosofica

    A new look at theoretical computer sciences by changing perspective with a biological approach.


    The analogy between living beings and computers was introduced with circumspection by Schrödinger and has been widely propagated since, rarely with a precise technical meaning. Critics of this perspective are numerous. We emphasize that this perspective is mobilized to justify what may be called a regressive reductionism by comparison with physics or the Cartesian method.
    Other views on the living are possible, and we focus on an epistemological and theoretical framework where historicity is central, and the regularities susceptible to mathematization are constraints whose existence is fundamentally precarious and historically contingent.
    We then propose to reinterpret the computer, no longer as a Turing machine but as constituted by constraints. This move allows us to understand that computation in the sense of Church-Turing is only a part of the theoretical determination of what actually happens in a computer when considering them in their larger theoretical context where historicity is also central.

  2. Penser au-delà de l’identité : philosophie et sciences

    Penser au-delà de l’identité : philosophie et sciences

    Philosophy World Democracy

    Si la philosophie est entrée en stasis et se porte vers un nécessaire Autre Commencement de la Philosophie, alors les sciences aussi sont à un autre commencement.


    Ce texte est le séminaire public donné le 31 mai à l’École Normale Supérieure de Paris. Les sciences se sont écartées de la philosophie. Si la philosophie est entrée en stasis et se porte vers un nécessaire Autre Commencement de la Philosophie, alors les sciences aussi sont à un autre commencement. L’Anastasis des sciences exige une enquête sur la persistance des concepts théologiques en leur sein et en même temps la découverte de nouveaux principes par lesquels les sciences peuvent recommencer de telle manière qu’elles soient libérées des fardeaux métaphysiques. Les homologies d’un autre commencement des sciences sont déjà visibles dans les crises conceptuelles, y compris dans les concepts de singularité en physique et d’immunité en biologie. Pour commencer à nouveau, une épistémologie bâtarde est proposée comme nouveau rapport entre les sciences et la famille bâtarde de la déconstruction.

  3. How should we think scientifically about biological objects?

    • M Montévil
    • en
    • Recording available
    • Seminar of the History, Philosophy and Biology Teaching Lab
    • History, Philosophy and Biology Teaching Lab, Universidade Federal da Bahia

    Scholars used Aristotelian reasoning in combination with theology to understand living beings, leading to natural theology, where god was the guarantee of biological norms. Transformism, notably Darwin, provided an alternative to this view; however, this alternative had to be acknowledged by scientists when the model of science was classical mechanics. It followed that thinking about biological objects remained similar to physics thinking, where norms are laws, or at least invariants and symmetries. The recurring analogies with technological objects, recently computers, as viewed by engineers (and not users or anthropology) also contributed to this theoretical and epistemological bias and confusion. On the opposite, we can think about biological objects differently, on renewed theoretical bases, by starting from theoretical principles that are sound in this field. Then, instead of fast analogies, numerous new questions, methods, and reasoning have to be fleshed out.

  4. The Anastasis of philosophy — seminar

    The multiple crises of philosophy (conceptual, institutional, vocational, political, economic) which have constituted a situation of more than crisis—a criticalisation—from which philosophy will not be able to recover into anything resembling what it was in the past. However, these moments of crises also offer a chance to question what were properly philosophical evils and initiate an inventive era of philosophy which will be able to comprehend a new relation with other disciplines including the sciences, psychoanalysis, politics, and technology. The analytic of the stasis of philosophy began with the tradition of deconstruction through Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Bernard Stiegler. Today we already have glimpses of philosophy in anastasis, or the experience of philosophy coming over stasis. The four speakers will outline and discuss the other beginning of philosophy.

  5. Texts as Technologies of Community Building: The Contributive Research Approach

    The concept of ‘contributive research’ was introduced by Bernard Stiegler for the multiple, bifurcating ways communities of care are created and cultivated through the production of knowledge, as opposed to the consumption of information. From this perspective, participation in a community constitutes a transformative experience of trans-individuation, oriented toward the re-appropriation of technological artefacts as an ethico-political response to the global challenges of the Anthropocene. The concept shares many qualities with other strands of interventionist research such as collaborative, dialogical, action, practice and participatory research. In this virtual salon we intend to investigate the relevance of the ‘contributive research’ approach for the field of theoretical psychology, suggesting an open, experimental and hermeneutic process of trans-individuation where communities are built through the reflection on and discussion of scientific, aesthetic and other textual representations. According to this approach, and following Stiegler’s theory of grammatization, texts are technological artefacts which constitute communities by rendering knowledge technically reproducible and simultaneously subject to differentiation and bifurcation. We do not aim to present cases of the ‘application’ of contributive research as a ‘method’. Rather, we conceptualize 4 cases of the interaction of emergent communal care and agency with research and with other forms of representation.

  6. Fundamental theory and epistemology of biology, and applications to the Anthropocene

    Biology is a science where, evolution possibly put aside, theories are not significantly developed. Nevertheless, at the theoretical and epistemological level, we argue that biology raises major challenges, notably in contrast with the theorizations of physics. In a nutshell, biology has to accommodate objects endowed with historicity: the ways they live are the result of their history, and they continue to generate history by the appearance of functional novelties. At the same time, they have organizations that require systemic understanding. We will introduce some aspects of this theoretical situation and show how it leads to peculiar vulnerabilities of the living that have acute manifestations in the Anthropocene. In that regard, we will discuss disruptions in biology, from ecosystems to early cognitive and psychological human development, and some responses to them.

  7. C2: Historicity, biological organizations and their disruptions

    In biology, despite the elements exposed in the previous session, the epistemology of physics remains pervasive. For example, mathematical models are typically designed and analyzed like in physics, from population genetic to biological morphogenesis. Then, we should rethink theorizing in biology to accommodate historicity but still leverage some methods coming from physics. Articulating both epistemologies opens a wealth of challenges and methodological opportunities. To illustrate this, we discuss what is often informally called disruption in biology and is a significant part of both biodiversity loss and public health issues. These disruptions require both the insight of historical and systemic thinking.

  8. C1: What is this animal? How the past does (and does not) define the present in biology

    In biology, the question of origins often refers to the origin of life; however, it is far broader and, in a sense, has far more pervasive ramifications. All organisms carry differences and can be the beginning of a new lineage. This perspective is central to the phylogenetic classification of living beings. In this course, we will discuss this approach from an epistemological angle. We will also show that, beyond the specific method, its epistemology permeates biology, for example, the reporting of experiments. Overall, we will discuss how the historical nature of biological objects can be used as a lever to define them theoretically and how this approach differs profoundly from the ones in physics.

  9. Conceptual and Theoretical Specifications for Accuracy in Medicine

    Conceptual and Theoretical Specifications for Accuracy in Medicine

    Personalized Medicine in the Making: Philosophical Perspectives from Biology to Healthcare

    We question some aspects of medicine from the perspective of theoretical biology, on the one hand, and the technological and social dimension of health and disease on the other hand.


    Technological developments in genomics and other -omics originated the idea that precise measurements would lead to better therapeutic strategies. However, precision does not entail accuracy. Scientific accuracy requires a theoretical framework to understand the meaning of measurements, the nature of causal relationships, and potential intrinsic limitations of knowledge. For example, a precise measurement of initial positions in classical mechanics is useless without initial velocities; it is not an accurate measurement of the initial condition. Conceptual and theoretical accuracy is required for precision to lead to the progress of knowledge and rationality in action. In the search for accuracy in medicine, we first outline our results on a theory of organisms. Biology is distinct from physics and requires a specific epistemology. In particular, we develop the meaning of biological measurements and emphasize that variability and historicity are fundamental notions. However, medicine is not just biology; we articulate the historicity of biological norms that stems from evolution and the idea that patients and groups of patients generate new norms to overcome pathological situations. Patients then play an active role, in line with the philosophy of Georges Canguilhem. We argue that taking this dimension of medicine into account is critical for theoretical accuracy.

    Keywords: Normativity, Organization, Personalized Medicine, Technology, theoretical biology

    Montévil, Maël. 2022. “Conceptual and Theoretical Specifications for Accuracy in Medicine.” In Personalized Medicine in the Making: Philosophical Perspectives from Biology to Healthcare, edited by Chiara Beneduce and Marta Bertolaso, 47–62. Human Perspectives in Health Sciences et Technology. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74804-3_3
    Manuscript Citation Publisher Full text

Filter by year to see more archives.