Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-century Biology

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Columbia University Press, 1995 - Philosophy - 134 pages
Refiguring Life begins with the history of genetics and embryology, showing how discipline-based metaphors have directed scientists' search for evidence. Keller continues with an exploration of the border traffic between biology and physics, focusing on the question of life and the law of increasing entropy. In a final section she traces the impact of new metaphors, born of the computer revolution, on the course of biological research. Keller shows how these metaphors began as objects of contestation between competing visions of the life sciences, how they came to be recast and appropriated by already established research agendas, and how in the process they ultimately came to subvert those same agendas. Refiguring Life explains how the metaphors and machinery of research are not merely the products of scientific discovery but actually work together to map out the territory along which new metaphors and machines can be constructed. Through their dynamic interaction, Keller points out, they define the realm of the possible in science. Drawing on a remarkable spectrum of theoretical work ranging from Schroedinger to French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Refiguring Life fuses issues already prominent in the humanities and social sciences with those in the physical and natural sciences, transgressing disciplinary boundaries to offer a broad view of the natural sciences as a whole. Moving gracefully from genetics to embryology, from physics to biology, from cyberscience to molecular biology, Evelyn Fox Keller demonstrates that scientific inquiry cannot pretend to stand apart from the issues and concerns of the larger society in which it exists.


Language and Science Genetics Embryology and the Discouse of Gene Action
Molecules Messages and Memory Life and the Second Law
The Body of a New Machine Situating the Organism Between Telegraphs and Computers

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About the author (1995)

Evelyn Fox Keller is professor of history and philosophy of science in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the author of numerous books, including A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock, Reflections on Gender and Science and most recently, Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death: Essays on Language, Gender, and Science.

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