“Naturalism” is a notoriously polyvalent term, more in use in contemporary analytic philosophy than in contemporary Continental philosophy (CP). A modest ontological naturalism, one that simply outlaws recourse to supernatural entities in one’s discourse, is well represented in CP. Among the lines of thought here would be the Spinozist / Nietzschean / Deleuzean one. The hardline methodological naturalism position, sometimes polemically called “scientism,” in which the findings of natural science provide the only warrant for legitimate knowledge claims, is little represented in CP. This is not to say that CP people abjure discussion of and indeed incorporation of scientific findings, methods, and principles into their philosophy.
After these prefatory remarks, John Protevi takes up Deleuze’s perspective from his “philosophy of difference” laid out in Difference and Repetition, that natural identities (the self-identity of an organism, say) are individuations of differential fields. In this light, he examines Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological. In particular, he examines Canguilhem’s concepts of (retrospective) adaptation and (prospective) adaptivity, as well as the notion of “comparative physiology” (linking the geographical, the technical and the physiological), in terms of “niche-construction” and in the dethroning of DNA as a “master molecule” in favor of a “Developmental Systems Theory” (DST) approach. He then examines Canguilhem and DST in terms of Deleuze’s notion of multiplicity.
The Continental Naturalism is a symposium on the Sciences, the Humanities and the State of the Earth Today, organized by the Centre for the Humanities at Utrecht University.