The prion is a self-replicating protein that infects the central nervous system. This essay applies Georges Canguilhem’s criterion for life, biological normativity, to the prion for the purpose of arguing that the existence of the prion within living systems requires attention to how biological matter uses space. Without the involvement of DNA, the prion protein is physically capable of transforming nonprion proteins into prion proteins—a capacity afforded by the specific characteristics of the energy landscape it propagates within, which in turn is determined by the specific arrangement of atoms in its molecular architecture. Like a hammer that is a mirror, the prion compresses and folds surrounding proteins, making its environment identical to itself. This essay studies how information exchange occurs for the prion for the purpose of arguing for a philosophy of biology premised on the analysis of space with attention to form over the analysis of language with attention to genetic code.

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