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Accueil > Archives > Axes de recherche : 2012–2017 > Axe 2012–2017 : Histoire et philosophie de la médecine > 4 Network of scientific information : Philosophy and Medecine

Axis History and philosophy of medicine 2012–2017

4 Network of scientific information : Philosophy and Medecine

The network was created in 2005 by Claire Crignon and Marie Gaille.

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The network Philosophy and Medicine intends to inform its members about seminars, workshops, conferences, publications and vacancies in the following fields : the history of medical practice and of medical theories and knowledge, biomedical research, public health policies, medical ethics and bioethics.

It aims at reaching the international academic community in the fields of human and social sciences.
It was first created in France to strenghten the connections between researchers working in different and unconnected fields. Since 2005, the network has grown and became international. Today, it is part of a dynamic research trend at an international level. This is made evident – among other examples – by the new focus on history and philosophy of medicine, within SPHERE, of which Marie Gaille is member, and within CERPHI, which has favoured research connecting history of ideas, history of philosophy and history of medicine for the last ten years.

To date, Philosophy and Medicine, together with other research centers and networks, wishes to promote at an international level the possibility of sharing and gathering works elaborated within various disciplines : history of ideas, history of philosophy, applied philosophy, political and moral philosophy, philosophy and history of sciences, literature, law, bioethics, epistemology, sociology, anthropology, and even archeology.

The network has organised various events :

  • May 28th 2005 : the seminar "Philosophie et médecine, Le discours médical comme norme de l’existence humaine en Europe, 16e-18e siècle".
  • June 21st 2008 : in collaboration with Dominique Weber of the seminar : "Le vieillissement et à la prolongation de la vie, 16e-18e siècles". The communications were gathered and published in Asterion, 8, 2011 (
  • October 16th 2009 : in collaboration with M. Spranzi of the seminar "La relation médicale : approches empiriques des questions éthiques", Université de Bourgogne, centre G. Chevrier.
  • 17-19 mars 2010 : International conference "Qu’est-ce qu’un bon médecin ? Qu’est-ce qu’un bon patient ?", Université Paris Descartes et Université de Bourgogne. The communications were gathered and published by M. Gaille et Cl. Crignon : Qu’est-ce qu’un bon patient ? Qu’est-ce qu’un bon médecin ? Paris, Séli Arslan, 2010.

Between 2009 and 2011, some members of the network have developed or been involved in the international project "La refonte de l’homme". Supervised by S. Buchenau, Cl. Crignon and A.-L. Rey, it was funded by the French National Research Agency (

Between 2012 and 2013, some of them have elaborated or involved in the international project "Anthropos". Supervised by Delphine Kolesnik-Antoine, Pierre Girard et Jean-François Goubet, it is also funded by the French National Research Agency (

Today, medical practice and biomedical research have raised numerous questions that are discussed both within the public arena and specialized fields. With regard to these questions, the network Philosophy and Medicine would like to highlight their historical roots and offer an understanding of these questions which is based on a long-term perspective. The network also pays attention to the social and cultural variety which becomes obvious in the answers given to these questions. Besides, the network has (particularl interest in the phenomenon commonly labelled as the « medicalization of human existence ». It studies political and moral norms that provide ground for this phenomenon.
Finally, the network Philosophy and Medicine wants to promote a reflective approach of theseissues. As a matter of fact, philosophy and medicine have interlinked histories. The language of medicine, its ways of reasoning, its visions of the human, have contributed to shape philosophy.

Since 2005, the network has focused on three main perspectives :

Par ailleurs, il est nécessaire pour qui s’intéresse aux pratiques liées à l’exercice de la médecine ou de la recherche biomédicale, d’avoir une pratique philosophique réfléchie. En effet, on ne peut en toute innocence s’intéresser philosophiquement à la médecine. Ces deux disciplines ont historiquement noué des liens forts. La médecine, par son langage, son mode de raisonnement, la vision de l’homme qu’elle a contribué à bâtir, a notablement pénétré le propos philosophique.
Dans cette perspective, trois aspects ont été particulièrement privilégiés depuis 2005.

- The "medical and philosophical tradition"*

  • Phrased by J. Pigeaud, the idea of a medical and philosophical tradition alludes to the reflection led by physicians themselves about on their knowledge and on the role medicine ought to play in the lives of individuals. Galen considers that medicine must always go along with philosophy and that the philosopher should also be a physician. This perspective has been constantly renewed and discussed, for example in the beginning of the 19th century, as shows P. Pinel’s Traité médico-philosophique sur l’aliénation mentale. This long-term conception has raised various questions : What are the most important landmarks of this tradition ? How did the dialogue between philosophy and medicine develop since Galen ? Which kinds of pattern offered this tradition to political thought, theology, aesthetics, and so on ?.

    * J. Pigeaud, Les maladies de l’âme - Étude sur la relation de l’âme et du corps dans la tradition medico-philosophique antique, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1981.

- The grounding role of medicine in the elaboration a philosophical anthropology

  • Medical knowledge and practices have been a major source in the emergence of a “philosophical anthropology”, as shows for example the impact of the Renaissance anatomy practices or, later on, the discovery of blood circulation, on the representation and conceptions of the human being. Before anthropology emerges as such and even later, the dialogue between philosophers and physicians is a key element to understand what is philosophical anthropology and how it has been shaped throughout history up to contemporary times..

- The philosophical reflection on the embodiment of the human being, disease and sickness, health, birth, ageing and death

  • This section deals with the ways philosophy could contribute today to the ongoing and intense descriptive work and critical thinking about medical practices. It is also interested in the paths it could take to develop a dialogue with both patients and medical staff, from caregivers to physicians. It is not obvious that what we call today "medical ethics" is enough to tackle this important issue. How can philosophy help to understand and conceptualise the experience of illness ? How can philosophy identify issues and difficulties associated with medical decision-making ? Besides, is philosophy able to explain ? Why, medicine seems to have substituted religion with regard to the quest of individual or collective salvation (by idealising perfect health, the development of self-medication, various forms of body "worshipping") ? Finally, from a political and ethical point of view, how may philosophy help to assess the contemporary process of questioning the limits that have defined human life and death up to recent times in relation with the technical improvements of medicine and the progress made in the art of curing ?

Claire Crignon and Marie Gaille