Why I stopped worrying about the definition of life... and why you should as well

Synthese 185 (1):145-164 (2012)
In several disciplines within science—evolutionary biology, molecular biology, astrobiology, synthetic biology, artificial life—and outside science—primarily ethics—efforts to define life have recently multiplied. However, no consensus has emerged. In this article, I argue that this is no accident. I propose a dilemma showing that the project of defining life is either impossible or pointless. The notion of life at stake in this project is either the folk concept of life or a scientific concept. In the former case, empirical evidence shows that life cannot be defined. In the latter case, I argue that, although defining life may be possible, it is pointless. I conclude that scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life
Keywords Life  Concept  Definition  Astrobiology  Synthetic biology  Alife  Molecular biology  Evolutionary biology  Concepts
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-9880-1
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Charles T. Wolfe (2014). The Organism as Ontological Go-Between. Hybridity, Boundaries and Degrees of Reality in its Conceptual History. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 1:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shps.

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