Zuzana Parusniková

Research Focus

My research interests in the Department for Analytical Philosophy is structured into roughly three areas.


One of them is the philosophy of medicine. My focus has been on the problems of the alternative and complementary medicine (CAM), its methodological difficulties and the tense relationship with the traditional medical establishment. In this context, I also discussed the views of Oliver Sacks and his challenging treatment of the link between illness and the identity formation. Besides that, I analyzed the problem of bio-power in the philosophy of M. Foucault with a specific emphasis on the emergence of the so-called cult of health in the Western societies and its link to the regimes of power.

Western societies today are engrossed by health issues. We live in a culture of healthism where health has become a sign of normality and morality. This paper draws on some interesting debates in the sociology of medicine to interpret healthism from a Foucauldian perspective. Health is tightly integrated into regimes of bio-power in welfare societies, but its significance changes in 'risk societies' where the state increasingly withdraws from its responsibility for individuals. As it gives up on its caring - and controlling - role, do individuals acquire more autonomy and empowerment? It seems that the reverse is true. People are burdened with responsibility for their lives, in which health represents a dominant value. The disciplinary discourse of health in risk societies takes on a new form - that of self-education, self-regulation and self-control. Thus, the rhetoric of individual empowerment masks the disciplinary nature of healthism.


The second field of my research interests that has played the dominant role in my work in recent years, is the philosophy of Karl Popper and the debates associated with it, dealing with the problems of methodology of science and the definition of rationality. The culmination of my work was a monography (supported by a 3-year grant) Reason - Criticism - Openness. The living legacy of K.R. Popper. In Czech. Praha, Filosofia 2007.

As the key to the evaluation of Popper's contribution to philosophy I chose his imperative of falsification, leading to an original non-foundationalist model of reason, a model defined only by its negative ability to falsify. In Popper's critical rationalism reason is purely an agent of destruction of all conjectures and cannot offer positive proof of their truth, probability or validity, or justification of their acceptance. This concept of negative reason brings a positive and optimistic message. It not only solves the logical contradictions of induction, and, by encouraging criticism, encourages the dynamic growth of knowledge, but offers an alternative to the postmodern devaluation of reason and thus contributes to the current disputes about rationality.

Another main outcome of the grant project was an international congress Rethinking Popper, held in Prague on 10 - 14. September 2007. Its main aim was to find the inspiration of Popper's thought in the contemporary philosophy of science. The Congress raised an immense response and almost 100 participants from 31 countries from around the world attended it. The result of this conference was a publication

Rethinking Popper. Editors Zuzana Parusniková and Robert S. Cohen. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science. Springer Verlag 2009.


The most recent research interests is aimed at the philosophy of David Hume. Hume represents a key figure in the Western philosophy and one of the most prominent philosophers of modern thought. My approach to Hume is based on the analysis of the the relation between the sceptical and the natural capacities creating the human condition.

I claim that there is a permanent dichotomy and incompatibility between these two capacities, with natural inclinations of our mind being the only constructive epistemological force. Hume's sceptical arguments are - following Richard Popkin - analyzed in the context of the revival of the Pyrrhonian scepticism in 17th century. In this perspective, Hume develops a strategy of alternatively hiding and exposing one of these aspects, sceptical and natural, without providing any grounds for unifying them: theoretical scepticism remains wholly unmitigated and natural instincts remain totally unaffected by doubts. Hume's sceptic is a split, schizophrenic personality, living in two distinct worlds. In this way, Hume evokes some postmodern views, especially by undermining the universal authority and the liberating mission of reason, the privileged status of philosophy, and the credibility of Grand meta-narratives.

The main goal of this research project is a monography offering an original perspective on Hume's contribution to epistemology, social sciences and to a debate on the role of reason..