Chapter 1: Life and materiality, nature and artifice: transgressing the divide
This book addresses the innovation of biomaterials taking place in corporations and in academic research settings. Biomaterials is a complex term, bridging two different epistemological traditions in the Western episteme. First, it includes the concept of life, bios, the totality of material resources endowed with a vitalist force, the possibility of continually changing and modifying. Life is associated with restless creativity and change, the ceaseless becoming of nature. Second, the term includes materiality, matter that is treated as inert and immutable, always already in place and serving its purpose by being predictable and unchangeable. While everything pertaining to life is addressed within the life sciences – biology, medicine, biochemistry and so forth – inert matter belongs to the engineering sciences, the sciences committed to the handling of materiality on various levels, ranging from the nanoscale (for example, nanobots and microelectronics) to the macroscale (for example, technological systems and infrastructures). These two terms have been, by and large, examined along divergent paths and have only occasionally been combined. However, the advancement of biomaterials used in the life sciences, including a series of innovations such as pacemakers in cardiology, artificial joints in orthopaedic surgery and dental implants in dental surgery, shows that the epistemological line of demarcation between life and non-life, vital and inert matter, is no longer as decisive as previously assumed.
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