Isabel Gabel received her Ph.D. in Modern European History from Columbia University. In 2011-2012, she was a Predoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Isabel’s research examines the role that biological theory and experimentation played in shaping nineteenth- and twentieth-century historical theory and philosophy. She is currently working on her book manuscript, “Contingent Matter: Biology and the Philosophy of History in Twentieth-Century France.” The book provides a genealogy of the relationship between developments in the fields of evolutionary theory, genetics, and embryology, and the emergence of French structuralism and posthumanist history. The story centers around two generations of French philosophers, including Raymond Aron, Georges Canguilhem, Cornelius Castoriadis, Michel Foucault, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and the biologists they turned to as resources for their philosophy, including Maurice Caullery, Étienne Wolff, and George E. Coghill. As the book shows, because these philosophers did not look to “life” as a metaphor or to “science” understood as either mere ideology or pure rationality, but instead grappled directly with the specific content of evolutionary theory, embryology, and genetics, biology profoundly reshaped the philosophical concepts of human and history.
Isabel Gabel's talk is part of the Intellectual Workshop series.