Welcome to the Vital Normativity Project Blog!
We are delighted that you share our enthusiasm for exploring alternative ways of understanding life. In this post, I will try to shed light on the concept of vital normativity, which forms the core of our project.
In this project, we will be exploring the idea that living beings are intrinsically normative entities. This means they actively determine their conditions of viability and interact with their environment in ways that foster their preservation, development, and growth. Our project sets out to challenge prevailing reductionist and mechanistic views of life, moving away from the perception of living beings as mere machines. Instead, we embrace a normative understanding that recognizes the dynamic and self-organising nature of life itself.
To illustrate this notion, let us turn to a compelling example presented by Georges Canguilhem in the book Normal and Pathological, which highlights the normative emergence of biological value:
“The laws of physics and chemistry do not vary according to health or disease. But to fail to admit that from a biological point of view, life differentiates between its states means condemning oneself to be even unable to distinguish food from excrement. Certainly a living being’s excrement can be food for another living being but not for him. What distinguishes food from excrement is not a physicochemical reality but a biological value.” (Canguilhem 1991, 220)
This quote beautifully captures the essence of vital normativity, emphasising how living beings constantly evaluate themselves and their surroundings, be it in a positive (health, food) or a negative way (disease, excrement). Understanding the values that arise when living beings live, plays an indispensable role in the scientific understanding of any vital phenomena. While the world of physics and chemistry may be deemed valueless, the world of biology is inherently saturated with value.
In our forthcoming bimonthly posts, we will explore diverse approaches to integrating vital normativity into scientific and philosophical perspectives on life. For now, please check out our last post, which delves deeper into how Georges Canguilhem and Maurice Merleau-Ponty understood vital normativity. We hope to ignite stimulating discussions and invite you to join us on the journey into the secrets of life.
Thank you for being part of our endeavour, and we look forward to sharing fascinating insights with you in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned!