Health and Other Reveries: Homo Curare, Homo Faber, and the Realization of Care

In Talia Welch & Susan Bredlau (eds.), Normality, Abnormality, and Pathology in Merleau-Ponty. New York, NY, USA: SUNY Press (2022)
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Abstract
Merleau-Ponty claims that the idea of objective knowledge is supported by "our reveries." My aim in this paper is to explore this argument with respect to the idea of health. As a case study, I focus on bioethical issues surrounding return of results of incidental variants with respect to the use of genetic and genomic screening technologies (GSTs) in newborn and pediatric contexts. Drawing on a range of Merleau-Ponty’s texts, I argue that this case suggests the modern idea of health to turn largely on the desire for control over one’s fate. More specifically, this is a desire for control aimed at assuring that the meaning of one’s life will stay the same as indexed by one’s ability expectations. I term this a desire for existential homeostasis. I further contend that the desire for existential homeostasis is underwritten by multiple sorts of privilege and, insofar as it informs health as a reverie, it is a desire that is particularly apt to contribute to and maintain injustice in both theory and practice.
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First archival date: 2021-01-23
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