Resurrecting The Body: Has Postmodernism Had Any Effect On Biology?

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1995

Published In

Science In Context


While postmodernism has had very little influence in biology (for reasons discussed in the paper), it can provide a framework for discussing the context in which biology is done. Here, four biological views of the body/self are contrasted: the neural, immunological, genetic, and phenotypic bodies. Each physical view of the body extrapolates into a different model of the body politic, and each posits a different relationship between bodies of knowledge. The neural view of the body models a body politic wherein society is defined by its culture and laws. The genetic view privileges views of polities based on ethnicity and race. The immune body extrapolates into polities that can defend themselves against other such polities. The phenotypic view of the body politic stands in opposition to these three major perspectives and integrates them without giving any predominance. The view of science as a ''neural'' body of knowledge contends that science is aperspectival and objective. The perspective of the ''immune'' body is that science exists to defend the interests of its creators. The genetic view of science is that science is the basis of all culture. The extrapolation of the phenotypic body to science insists upon the utilitarian rationale for scientific enterprises. In all instances, the genetic view of the body/body politic/body of science is presently in ascendance.

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