CONTINENTAL NATURALISM: a Symposium on the Sciences, the Humanities and the State of the Earth Today

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Date(s) - 15/04/2014
01:00 - 03:30

Room 002

Category(ies) No Categories

The Centre for the Humanities is proud to welcome Prof. John Protevi to Utrecht University. This visit is the first of this year’s ‘Theory Labs series’ of the CfH.


John Protevi is Phyllis M Taylor Professor of French Studies and Professor of Philosophy at Louisiana State University. His most recent book is Life, War, Earth: Deleuze and the Sciences (Minnesota, 2013). He has published: Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic (Minnesota, 2009); Political Physics: Deleuze, Derrida, and the Body Politic (Athlone, 2001); Time and Exteriority: Aristotle, Heidegger, Derrida (Bucknell, 1994); and co-author, with Mark Bonta, of Deleuze and Geophilosophy (Edinburgh, 2004), He is also the editor of A Dictionary of Continental Philosophy (Yale, 2006). He was the Scots Philosophical Association Centenary Fellow for 2012. His research and teaching materials can be found at; he is also a blogger at New APPS:





1. 13:00 Opening: ‘Naturalism in Contemporary Theory’

Rosi Braidotti

2. 13:30 Keynote: ‘Canguilhem, Deleuze, and Developmental Systems Theory’

John Protevi

3. 14:15 Respondent: ‘Malabou, Serres and Traumatized Systems Today’

Rick Dolphijn

4. 14:45 Roundtable: Alternative Eco-theory

15:30 End






“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, Protevi  will take 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, I examine Canguilhem’s The Normal and the Pathological. In particular, he will examine 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. I then examine Canguilhem and DST in terms of Deleuze’s notion of multiplicity.


The symposium is open but registration is necessary.

Please register by sending an email to before April 10.