Selfhood, Immunity, and the Biological Imagination: The Thought of Frank Macfarlane Burnet
Source: Biology and Philosophy, Volume 15, Number 4, September 2000 , pp. 509-533(25)
Abstract:The language of self and nonself has had a prominent place in immunology. This paper examines Frank Macfarlane Burnet's introduction of the language of selfhood into the science. The distinction between self and nonself was an integral part of Burnet's biological outlook – of his interest in the living organism in its totality, its activities, and interactions. We show the empirical and conceptual work of the language of selfhood in the science. The relation between self and nonself tied into Burnet's ecological vision of host-parasite interaction. The idiom of selfhood also enabled Burnet to organize and unify a diversity of immune phenomena. Rather than approach the language of self and nonself as a bluntly imposed metaphor, we focus on its endogenous origins and immanent uses in immunology.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: 1: Virginia Tech, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, 124 Lane Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0227, U.S.A. 2: Boston University, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, 745 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, U.S.A.
Publication date: 2000-09-01