French, b: 1924, near Langres. Cat: Philosopher and historian of science; psychiatrist. Ints: Foundations of biology and medicine. Educ: Lycées de Thionville, Langres, Aix-en-Provence (Agrégé in Philosophy, 1949); Lyceé Ampere, Lyon; University of Lyon (Doctor of Medicine, 1958). Infls: Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault and G. Canguilhem. Appts: From 1953, teacher then Professor of Philosophy (1959), University of Lyon.
Dagognet is a psychiatrist and also a philosopher and historian of science (particularly of biology and chemistry) much inspired by Gaston Bachelard. Like Bachelard he stresses the discontinuity in rational and scientific thought and regards the scientific rationalization of experience as 'un rationalisme ouvert', involving a dynamic 'rapport' between subject and object. Thus, opposed both to the idea that thought is a mere reproduction of reality and to the idea that reality is an a priori rational construction, he holds that knowledge affects the known object and vice versa. He associates this view with a (non-Marxist) dialectical materialism that repudiates the separation of theory and practice and affirms that we only know what we try to change.
This epistemological position underlies Dagognet's philosophical analyses of medicine and therapeutic practices. According to him normative questions concerning the nature of health are logically inseparable from empirical questions concerning the efficacy of remedies. Concerned to expose the 'illusions of pharmacology', he rejects the commonplace medical belief that there is an 'objectivité curative', an absolute remedy for all or even any illness, presupposing invariant relations between the chemical composition of a substance and its physiological effects. Calling attention to the unpredictability of cures, owing to such factors as the effect of the patient's beliefs and individual differences, he maintains that there is only a 'curative dynamism', a material dialectic between the cure (for example, a certain drug) and the patient's convictions, an interaction modifying both. It is widely recognized that the great achievement of Dagognet's analyses is to have shown that remedies are in part social and cultural products.
American, b: 16 October 1928, Schenectady, New York. Cat: Feminist theologian and philosopher. Ints: Philosophy of value. Educ: College of St Rose, Catholic University of America, St Mary's College (Notre Dame) and the University of Freiburg (Switzerland). Appts: 1954-9, teaching post in Philosophy and Theology, Cardinal Cushing College; 1959-66, junior year abroad programme, Rosary College, La Salle College, Georgetown University, Freiburg; from 1966, Assistant then Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College.