Project (2011-2012)

Epistemologies of the Living between 1900 and 1960

“We suspect that, to do mathematics, it would suffice that we be angels. But to do biology, even with the aid of intelligence, we sometimes need to feel like beasts ourselves.” With this stunning claim, Georges Canguilhem (1904–1995) alerts us to an epistemological adventure that has absorbed biologists, political theorists, philosophers, and historians alike. Isabel Gabel's project examined the history of this adventure in European thought, focusing on a constellation of mid-twentieth century French and German thinkers who sought new understandings of political and historical possibility through an engagement with biological concepts. These figures include Jakob von Uexküll, Martin Heidegger, Hans Jonas, Georges Canguilhem, Michel Foucault, and Hannah Arendt.