This article revisits long-standing critiques of the role of metaphor in immunological discourse. Drawing on Alfred North Whitehead’s speculative philosophy of organism, I focus on the use of metaphor to explain the process by which COVID-19 vaccine research is able to generate protective antibodies, the challenge of autoimmune disease and dengue fever antibodies. I suggest that metaphors are provoked by the perplexity that arises from presupposing that distinct morphological substances are the first order of reality. I conclude that rather than seeing metaphors as typically skewing conceptions of the body, as has been previously argued, those of memory, recognition and misrecognition may be instructive of a body in transition. Indeed, a process of transition that shows degrees of creativity. When gesturing towards the processual nature of infection and immunity, metaphors invite new modes of shared thinking across the disciplinary divide.
- Infectious diseases
- philosophy of science
- Medical humanities
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Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was first published. The licence has been updated to open access CC BY.
Contributors MR is the sole author of this paper.
Funding Funded by Australian Research Council Award Number: DP210101604.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.