Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 19, Issue 1, Fall 2014

Russell Winslow
Pages 65-85

Biological Meaning

In the following article, the author offers an interpretation of George Canguilhem’s thinly articulated concept “biological meaning.” As a way into the problem, the article begins with the question: how does “biological meaning” differ from other forms of meaning? That is to ask, if we are to hold that the mere physical/chemical mode of being of a stone differs from the biological mode of being of an organism, how do they differ in their meaning? In an effort to supply an answer to this question, our author postulates that, when we consider the lived circumstances of the organism, the existential situation of living beings, their biological facticity, then we intuit a fundamental difference in the mode of being of the motions of billiard balls and those of organisms. Moreover, through the investigation into, on the one hand, the motions that take place in a living milieu and, on the other hand, the form of potentiality inherent in what we might call the motions of adaptation, the author offers a preliminary description of a meaning that might be uniquely biological.