Synthese 185 (1):145-164 (2012)

Authors
Edouard Machery
University of Pittsburgh
Abstract
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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References found in this work BETA

Perceptual Symbol Systems.Lawrence W. Barsalou - 1999 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 22 (4):577-660.
Doing Without Concepts.Edouard Machery - 2009 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

On (Not) Defining Cognition.Colin Allen - 2017 - Synthese 194 (11):4233-4249.
Rethinking the Problem of Cognition.Mikio Akagi - 2018 - Synthese 195 (8):3547-3570.
Conceptual Fragmentation and the Rise of Eliminativism.Henry Taylor & Peter Vickers - 2017 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 7 (1):17-40.

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