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Position Pieces

Vol 8 No 2: Medical Testing, Diagnosis and Value

COVID-19 Diagnoses: A Source of Immanent Value and Novelty

July 9, 2020
June 18, 2021


Although the body is fundamental to observation and feeling, its experience of infection is regarded by the biomedical sciences and, for the most part, the social sciences as relatively obtuse. The body is situated as a mere object of inquiry, as if its intricate and highly complex dynamics indicate that it is no more than an imperfect animated machine and, concomitantly, infection simply a change to its normative mechanisms. In this Position Piece, I ask: what might be afforded to the problematic diagnosis of communicable infection and to global health strategies of containment if the body were appreciated as an active participant in diagnoses? To do so, I take up the ‘pluralist panpsychist’ proposition that bodies think. Counter to the view that thinking is the preserve of the human mind and that value is an ‘after’ ascribed to a given fact or situation, I experiment with the idea that the body’s sensory awareness can be thought as a creative source of immanent values. Drawing on a series of empirical examples primarily focused on the perceived novelty of COVID-19, I offer a preliminary sketch of how revaluing the body as involved in decision-making and novelty might enrich the scope of biomedical and social diagnoses.