In theory, at least, we might achieve a certain sort of invulnerability right at the end of life. Suppose that under favorable circumstances we can live a certain number of years, say 125, but no longer, and also that we can make life as a whole better and better over time. Under these assumptions we might hope to disarm death by spending 125 years making life as good as it can be. If we were lucky enough to (...) accomplish that, afterwards we would be immune to mortal harm. Especially for those who are closer to the beginning of life than to the end, however, this strategy leaves much to be desired. It is like devouring an entire banquet so as to eliminate the danger of someone stealing it from us. Like a feast, a good life is safely ours after it is over, but then safety comes too late to be of any use to us. To be of practical value, we need protection from mortal harm much earlier in life. (shrink)
"Daimon Life is life-enchancing. To read it is to become richer in word." –John Llewelyn Disclosure of Martin Heidegger’s complicity with the National Socialist regime in 1933-34 has provoked virulent debate about the relationship between his politics and his philosophy. Did Heidegger’s philosophy exhibit a kind of organicism readily transformed into ideological "blood and soil"? Or, rather, did his support of the Nazis betray a fundamental lack of loyalty to living things? David Farrell Krell traces Heidegger’s political authoritarianism (...) to his failure to develop a constructive "life-philosophy"—his phobic reactions to other forms of being. Krell details Heidegger’s opposition to Lebensphilosophie as expressed in Being and Time, in an important but little-known lecture course on theoretical biology given in 1929–30 called "The Basic Concepts of Metaphysics," and in a recently published key text, Contributions to Philosophy, written in 1936–38. Although Heidegger’s attempt to think through the problems of life, sexual reproduction, behavior, environment, and the ecosystem ultimately failed, Krell contends that his methods of thinking nonetheless pose important tasks for our own thought. Drawing on and away from Heidegger, Krell expands on the topics of life, death, sexuality, and spirit as these are treated by Freud, Nietzsche, Derrida, and Irigaray. Daimon Life addresses issues central to contemporary philosophies of politics, gender, ecology, and theoretical biology. (shrink)
Part I: The representation of life -- Can life be given a real definition? -- The representation of the living individual -- The representation of the life-form itself -- Part II: Naive action theory -- Types of practical explanation -- Naive explanation of action -- Action and time -- Part III: Practical generality -- Two tendencies in practical philosophy -- Practices and dispositions as sources of the goodness of individual actions -- Practice and disposition as sources of (...) individual action. (shrink)
Applies Deleuzian theory to an array of physical phenomena, scientific issues, and political events. Life, War, Earth demonstrates how Gilles Deleuze’s ontology of the virtual, intensive, and actual can enhance our understanding of important issues in cognitive science, biology, and geography. The book offers a unique reading of Deleuze’s corpus and a useful method for applying Deleuzian techniques to the natural sciences, the social sciences, political phenomena, and contemporary events.
Life and Death in Freud and Heidegger argues that mortality is a fundamental structuring element in human life. The ordinary view of life and death regards them as dichotomous and separate. This book explains why this view is unsatisfactory and presents a new model of the relationship between life and death that sees them as interlinked. Using Heidegger’s concept of being towards death and Freud’s notion of the death drive, it demonstrates the extensive influence death has (...) on everyday life and gives an account of its structural and existential significance. By bringing the two perspectives together, this book presents a reading of death that establishes its significance for life, creates a meeting point for philosophical and psychoanalytical perspectives, and examines the problems and strengths of each. It then puts forth a unified view, based on the strengths of each position and overcoming the problems of each. Finally, it works out the ethical consequences of this view. This volume is of interest for philosophers, mental health practitioners and those working in the field of death studies. (shrink)
We imagine posthumans as humans made superhumanly intelligent or resilient by future advances in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science. Many argue that these enhanced people might live better lives; others fear that tinkering with our nature will undermine our sense of our own humanity. Whoever is right, it is assumed that our technological successor will be an upgraded or degraded version of us: Human 2.0. Posthuman Life argues that the enhancement debate projects a human face onto an (...) empty screen. We do not know what will happen and, not being posthuman, cannot anticipate how posthumans will assess the world. If a posthuman future will not necessarily be informed by our kind of subjectivity or morality the limits of our current knowledge must inform any ethical or political assessment of that future. Posthuman Life develops a critical metaphysics of posthuman succession and argues that only a truly speculative posthumanism can support an ethics that meets the challenge of the transformative potential of technology. (shrink)
What is life? For four centuries, it has been believed that the only possible scientific approach to this question proceeds from the Cartesian metaphor -- organism as machine. Therefore, organisms are to be studied and characterized the same way "machines" are; the same way any inorganic system is. Robert Rosen argues that such a view is neither necessary nor sufficient to answer the question. He asserts that life is not a specialization of mechanism, but rather a sweeping generalization (...) of it. Above all, Rosen argues that renouncing mechanism does not mean abandoning science. A radical alternative is proposed, drawn equally from experience in biology, physics, and mathematics; an alternative which draws attention to a new class of complex systems, which are radically different from mechanism. (shrink)
'Never before has there been so many and such dreadful weapons in so many irresponsible hands.' - Karl Popper, from the Preface All Life is Problem Solving is a stimulating and provocative selection of Popper's writings on his main preoccupations during the last twenty-five years of his life. This collection illuminates Popper's process of working out key formulations in his theory of science, and indicates his view of the state of the world at the end of the Cold (...) War and after the collapse of communism. (shrink)
Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart was born in Yorkshire in 1907 to second generation Jewish immigrants. Having won a scholarship to Oxford University, he went on to become the most famous legal philosopher of the twentieth century. From 1932-40 H.L.A Hart practised as a barrister in London. He was pronounced physically unfit for military service in 1940, and was recruited by MI5, where he worked until 1945. During his time at the Bar he had continued to study philosophy and at M15 (...) his interest was further stimulated by his philosopher colleagues in M16, Stuart Hampshire and Gilbert Ryle. After the war, Hart returned to Oxford to take up a philosophy fellowship, later to become Professor of Jurisprudence. H.L.A Hart single-handedly reinvented the philosophy of law and influenced the nation's thinking in the 1960s on abortion, the legalization of homosexuality, and on capital punishment. Hart's approach to legal philosophy was at once disarmingly simple and breathtakingly ambitious, combining as it did the insights of Austin and Bentham and the new linguistic philosophy of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He sought to elucidate a concept of law which would be of relevance to all forms of law, wherever or whenever they arose: his bestselling book, The Concept of Law, has sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide. In 1941, he married Jenifer Williams (a high-ranking civil servant, later an Oxford academic) with whom he had four children. Their relationship was an enduring if unconventional one. In the early 1950s, Jenifer was rumoured to be having a long-standing affair with Isaiah Berlin, one of Hart's closest friends. She was also, falsely, accused by the Sunday Times of having been a Russian spy, an allegation which was all the more scandalous given Hart's position at MI5 during the War. Nicola Lacey draws on Hart's previously unpublished diaries and letters to reveal a complex inner life. Outwardly successful, Hart was in fact tormented by doubts about his intellectual abilities, his sexual identity and his capacity to form close relationships. Her biography also sheds fascinating light on the origins of his ideas, and assesses his overall contribution. Above all, it chronicles of a life which had a depth ands impact far greater than many of Hart's readers have realized. (shrink)
In Gadamer’s hermeneutics, interpretation is inseparable from the broader concern of making one’s way in life. In this book, James Risser builds on this insight about the juxtaposition of human living and the act of understanding by tracing hermeneutics back to the basic experience of philosophy as defined by Plato. For Risser, Plato provides resources for new directions in hermeneutics and new possibilities for "the life of understanding" and "the understanding of life." Risser places Gadamer in dialogue (...) with Plato, with the issue of memory as a conceptual focus. He develops themes pertaining to hermeneutics such as retrieval as a matter of convalescence, exile as a venture into the foreign, formation with respect to oneself and to life with others, the experience of language in hermeneutics, and the relationship between speaking and writing. (shrink)
Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossibile to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life.Campbell argues that a "crypto-thanatopolitics" can be teased out of Heidegger's critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics---including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk---have (...) been substansively influenced by Heidegger's thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault, Freud, and Gilles Deleuze. Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmation techne not thought through thanatos but rather through bios. (shrink)
Suppose we are about to enter an era of increasing technological unemployment. What implications does this have for society? Two distinct ethical/social issues would seem to arise. The first is one of distributive justice: how will the efficiency gains from automated labour be distributed through society? The second is one of personal fulfillment and meaning: if people no longer have to work, what will they do with their lives? In this article, I set aside the first issue and focus on (...) the second. In doing so, I make three arguments. First, I argue that there are good reasons to embrace non-work and that these reasons become more compelling in an era of technological unemployment. Second, I argue that the technological advances that make widespread technological unemployment possible could still threaten or undermine human flourishing and meaning, especially if they do not remain confined to the economic sphere. And third, I argue that this threat could be contained if we adopt an integrative approach to our relationship with technology. In advancing these arguments, I draw on three distinct literatures: the literature on technological unemployment and workplace automation; the antiwork critique—which I argue gives reasons to embrace technological unemployment; and the philosophical debate about the conditions for meaning in life—which I argue gives reasons for concern. (shrink)
ABOUT THE BOOK:The present work is based on a critical study of all the available sources in the original and attempts a historical reconstruction of Sankara`s life and work.The ideas of Sankara have been generally interpreted in the light of later.
Why would a country strongly influenced by Buddhism's reverence for life allow legalized, widely used abortion? Equally puzzling to many Westerners is the Japanese practice of mizuko rites, in which the parents of aborted fetuses pray for the well-being of these rejected "lives." In this provocative investigation, William LaFleur examines abortion as a window on the culture and ethics of Japan. At the same time he contributes to the Western debate on abortion, exploring how the Japanese resolve their conflicting (...) emotions privately and avoid the pro-life/pro-choice politics that sharply divide Americans on the issue. (shrink)
To date, no definition of life has been unequivocally accepted by the scientific community. In frustration, some authors advocate alternatives to standard definitions. These include using a list of characteristic features, focusing on life’s effects, or categorizing biospheres rather than life itself; treating life as a fuzzy category, a process or a cluster of contingent properties; or advocating a ‘wait-and-see’ approach until other examples of life are created or discovered. But these skeptical, operational, and pluralistic (...) approaches have intensified the debate, rather than settled it. Given the failure of even these approaches, we advocate a new strategy. In this paper, we reverse the usual line of reasoning and argue that the “life problem” arises from thinking incorrectly about the nature of life. Scientists most often conceptualize life as a class or kind, with earthly life as a single instance of it. Instead, we advocate thinking about Earth’s Life as an individual, in the way that species are now thought to be. In this view, Life is a monophyletic clade that originated with a last universal common ancestor, and includes all its descendants. We can continue to use the category ‘life’ pragmatically to refer to similarities between various phenomena and Life. But the relevant similarities are a matter of interest and preference, not a matter of fact. The search for other life in the Universe, then, is merely a search for entities that resemble parts of Life in whatever sense astrobiologists find most appealing. This does not mean that the search for evolved complexity elsewhere in the universe or its creation in the lab are futile endeavors, but that debates over whether they count as ‘life’ are. Ironically, finally abandoning the concept ‘life’ may make our searches for evolved complexity more fruitful. We explain why. (shrink)
"In the gorgeous and rugged terrain of Jewish thought, there is no higher mountain to climb than Maimonides, and no more slippery or exhilarating ascent. Halbertal has made it all the way to the top, and his survey of the whole of the Maimonidean landscape is trustworthy and masterful. This is the richest and most intellectually sophisticated book on Maimonides I have ever read."--Leon Wieseltier "In this learned and penetrating work, Halbertal offers us a Maimonides who draws on the dominant (...) Greco-Islamic thought of his time while creating a system of thought that is fully Jewish. He shows us how the early "Commentary on the Mishnah" links up with the "Mishneh Torah" and with the "Guide of the Perplexed," written at the end of his life, to form an unexpected and radical intellectual unity. Beautifully written, "Maimonides" brings out both Maimonides's intellectual success and the paradoxical critical approaches to him after his death."--David J. Wasserstein, Vanderbilt University "Insightful and learned. Halbertal is perhaps the leading philosopher of Jewish law today. His book on Maimonides, like his other writings, reflects wide erudition and is written clearly and sharply."--Warren Zev Harvey, professor emeritus, Hebrew University of Jerusalem "Displaying the marvelous depth and clarity that mark all his work, Halbertal explains in abundant detail the transformations that Maimonides sought to effect in the Jewish world. He provides incisive interpretations of both legal and philosophical writings, yet he is also a biographer, binding together Maimonides's life, self-perception, and intellectual agenda. This is an exceptionally rich book, one that offers fresh perspectives for experts and a highly accessible introduction for general readers."--David Shatz, Yeshiva University "An outstanding and thrilling portrait of Maimonides. Halbertal's analytic lucidity and psychological depth are singular, and his talents are abundantly apparent on every page. This is an extraordinary book."--Menachem Lorberbaum, Tel Aviv University. (shrink)
In 1993, Professor of Jurisprudence, Ronald Dworkin of Oxford University and Professor of Law at New York University, delivered the Georgetown Law Center’s thirteenth Annual Philip A. Hart Memorial Lecture: "Life’s Dominion: An Argument About Abortion and Euthanasia." Dworkin is Professor of Philosophy and Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law at New York University. He received B.A. degrees from both Harvard College and Oxford University, and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School and clerked for Judge Learned Hand. He was (...) associated with a law firm in New York (Sullivan and Cromwell) and was a professor of law at Yale University Law School from 1962-1969. He has been Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford and Fellow of University College since 1969. He has a joint appointment at Oxford and at NYU where he is a professor both in the Law School and the Philosophy Department. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Dworkin is the author of many articles in philosophical and legal journals as well as articles on legal and political topics in the New York Review of Books. He has written Taking Rights Seriously (1977), A Matter of Principle (1985), Law’s Empire (1986), Philosophical Issues in Senile Dementia (1987), A Bill of Rights for Britain (1990), Life’s Dominion (1993), and Freedom’s Law (1996). (shrink)
Are bacteriophage T4 and the long-nosed elephant fish valuable in their own right? Nicholas Agar defends an affirmative answer to this question by arguing that anything living is intrinsically valuable. This claim challenges received ethical wisdom according to which only human beings are valuable in themselves. The resulting biocentric or life-centered morality forms the platform for an ethic of the environment. -/- Agar builds a bridge between the biological sciences and what he calls "folk" morality to arrive at a (...) workable environmental ethic and a new spectrum--a new hierarchy--of living organisms. The book overturns common-sense moral belief as well as centuries of philosophical speculation on the exclusive moral significance of humans. Spanning several fields, including philosophy of psychology, philosophy of science, and other areas of contemporary analytic philosophy, Agar analyzes and speaks to a wide array of historic and contemporary views, from Aristotle and Kant, to E. O. Wilson, Holmes Rolston II, and Baird Callicot. The result is a challenge to prevailing definitions of value and a call for a scientifically-informed appreciation of nature. (shrink)
In this article I develop a theory of political ontology, working to differentiate it from traditional political philosophy and Schmittian political theology. As with political theology, political ontology has its primary grounding not in disinterested contemplation from the standpoint of pure reason, but rather in a confrontation with an existential problem. Yet while for Schmitt this is the problem of how to live and think in obedience to God, the problem for political ontology is the question of being. Thus the (...) political ontologist agrees with the political theologian that the political cannot be thought without an awareness of an irreducible exigency – the fact that one thinks as situated in response to a certain moral or ethical demand – but it takes this demand to consist not in divine revelation, but rather in the fact that the human being is a being for which being is at issue. With this definition in mind I go on to read Giorgio Agamben in resolutely ontological terms, arguing that his concepts of bare life and the exception are largely unintelligible if understood ontically. Instead, these concepts are part of a critique that has as its primary target not the ontic political systems and material institutions of modern states but rather the (negative) metaphysical ground of those systems. Political ontology insists on the intertwining of ontology and politics, claiming that theirs is a relation of mutual determination. (shrink)
Modern medicine provides unprecedented opportunities in diagnostics and treatment. However, in some situations at the end of a patient’s life, many physicians refrain from using all possible measures to prolong life. We studied the incidence of different types of treatment withheld or withdrawn in 6 European countries and analyzed the main background characteristics.
This paper reformulates some of the questions raised by extended mind theorists from an enactive, life/mind continuity perspective. Because of its reliance on concepts such as autopoiesis, the enactive approach has been deemed internalist and thus incompatible with the extended mind hypothesis. This paper answers this criticism by showing (1) that the relation between organism and cogniser is not one of co-extension, (2) that cognition is a relational phenomenon and thereby has no location, and (3) that the individuality of (...) a cogniser is inevitably linked with the question of its autonomy, a question ignored by the extended mind hypothesis but for which the enactive approach proposes a precise, operational, albeit non-functionalist answer. The paper raises a pespective of embedded and intersecting forms of autonomous identity generation, some of which correspond to the canonical cases discussed in the extended mind literature, but on the whole of wider generality. In addressing these issues, this paper proposes unbiased, non-species specific definitions of cognition, agency and mediation, thus filling in gaps in the extended mind debates that have led to paradoxical situations and a problematic over-reliance on intutions about what counts as cognitive. (shrink)
Baruch Spinoza was one of the most important philosophers of all time; he was also arguably the most radical and controversial. This was the first complete biography of Spinoza in any language and is based on detailed archival research. More than simply recounting the story of Spinoza's life, the book takes the reader right into the heart of Jewish Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and, with Spinoza's exile from Judaism, right into the midst of the tumultuous political, social, intellectual (...) and religious world of the young Dutch Republic. Though the book will be an invaluable resource for philosophers, historians, and scholars of Jewish thought, it has been written for any member of the general reading public with a serious interest in philosophy, Jewish history, seventeenth-century European history, and the culture of the Dutch Golden Age. Spinoza: A Life has recently been awarded the Koret Jewish Book Award. (shrink)
Publisher's description: The Phenomenology of Religious Life presents the text of Heidegger's important 1920621 lectures on religion. First published in 1995 as volume 60 of the Gesamtausgabe, the work reveals a young Heidegger searching for the striking language that eventually formed the mature expression of his thought. The volume consists of the famous lecture course "Introduction to the Phenomenology of Religion," a course on "Augustine and Neoplatonism," and notes for a course on "The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism" that (...) was never delivered. Heidegger's engagements with Aristotle, St. Paul, Augustine, and Luther give readers a sense of what phenomenology would come to mean in his later works. Here, Heidegger reveals an impressive display of theological knowledge, protecting Christian life experience from Greek philosophy and defending Paul against Nietzsche. The appearance of this first English translation marks a significant event in Heidegger scholarship and affords a unique look into his phenomenology. (shrink)
The question ‘what is life?’ has long been a source of philosophical debate and in recent years has taken on increasing scientific importance. The most popular approach among both philosophers and scientists for answering this question is to provide a “definition” of life. In this article I explore a variety of different definitional approaches, both traditional and non-traditional, that have been used to “define” life. I argue that all of them are deeply flawed. It is my contention (...) that a scientifically compelling understanding of the nature of life presupposes an empirically adequate scientific theory (vs. definition) of life; as I argue, scientific theories are not the sort of thing that can be encapsulated in definitions. Unfortunately, as I also discuss, scientists are currently in no position to formulate even a tentative version of such a theory. Recent discoveries in biology and biochemistry have revealed that familiar Earth life represents a single example that may not be representative of life. If this is the case, life on Earth today provides an empirically inadequate foundation for theorizing about life considered generally. I sketch a strategy for procuring the needed additional examples of life without the guidance of a definition or theory of life, and close with an application to NASA’s fledgling search for extraterrestrial life. (shrink)
This highly original work introduces the ideas and arguments of the ancient Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism to some of the most intractable social issues of modern American life, including abortion, gay marriage, and assisted suicide. Introduces the precepts of ancient Chinese philosophers to issues they could not have anticipated Relates Daoist and Confucian ideas to problems across the arc of modern human life, from birth to death Provides general readers with a fascinating introduction to Chinese philosophy, (...) and its continued relevance Offers a fresh perspective on highly controversial American debates, including abortion, stem cell research, and assisted suicide. (shrink)
The concept of the cortical column refers to vertical cell bands with similar response properties, which were initially observed by Vernon Mountcastle’s mapping of single cell recordings in the cat somatic cortex. It has subsequently guided over 50 years of neuroscientific research, in which fundamental questions about the modularity of the cortex and basic principles of sensory information processing were empirically investigated. Nevertheless, the status of the column remains controversial today, as skeptical commentators proclaim that the vertical cell bands are (...) a functionally insignificant by-product of ontogenetic development. This paper inquires how the column came to be viewed as an elementary unit of the cortex from Mountcastle’s discovery in 1955 until David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel’s reception of the Nobel Prize in 1981. I first argue that Mountcastle’s vertical electrode recordings served as criteria for applying the column concept to electrophysiological data. In contrast to previous authors, I claim that this move from electrophysiological data to the phenomenon of columnar responses was concept-laden, but not theory-laden. In the second part of the paper, I argue that Mountcastle’s criteria provided Hubel Wiesel with a conceptual outlook, i.e. it allowed them to anticipate columnar patterns in the cat and macaque visual cortex. I argue that in the late 1970s, this outlook only briefly took a form that one could call a ‘theory’ of the cerebral cortex, before new experimental techniques started to diversify column research. I end by showing how this account of early column research fits into a larger project that follows the conceptual development of the column into the present. (shrink)
The paper aims to clarify the role of the meaning of life in Anselm Müller’s philosophy. Müller says that the ethically good life is the life of acting well, and acting well requires at least a rough conception of the meaning of life, or a conception of what makes a life go well. But why is such a conception required and what does it mean to have such a conception? I argue that such a conception (...) cannot provide us with ultimate ends in our practical deliberations. Nor can its role be merely to provide a standard against which practical reasoning can be assessed. Rather, our conception of the meaning of life is, in the first instance, that which allows us, in our practical reasoning, to see certain considerations as good reasons for certain actions and to weigh reasons for and against different options. One upshot of my interpretation is that Müller should be more optimistic about philosophy’s ability to answer the question of the meaning of life than he allows himself to be. (shrink)
Despite the burgeoning interest in new and more complex accounts of the organism-environment dyad by biologists and philosophers, little attention has been paid in the resulting discussions to the history of these ideas and to their deployment in disciplines outside biology—especially in the social sciences. Even in biology and philosophy, there is a lack of detailed conceptual models of the organism-environment relationship. This volume is designed to fill these lacunae by providing the first multidisciplinary discussion of the topic of organism-environment (...) interaction. It brings together scholars from history, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, medicine, and biology to discuss the common focus of their work: entangled life, or the complex interaction of organisms and environments. (shrink)
"All life upon the stage"; the Theatrum Mundi. In this volume, a seventeenth century metaphor is revisited and is seen as applying to all art in all times. In the "magic mirror of art" the human being discerns the hidden spheres of human life and commemorates and celebrates its glorious victories and mourns its ignominious defeats. Let us rediscover Art as a witness to the human predicament as well as a celebrant of humanity's most sublime moments. This is (...) the invitation of this collection of studies by A-T. Tymieniecka, Hanna Scolnicov, Muella Erkilic, Matt Landrus, Patricia Trutty-Coohill, Monika Bakke, David Brubaker, Tammy Knipp, Howard Pearce, Ellen J. Burns, G. Backhaus, Ethan J. Leib, Lawrence Kimmel, Ingrid Scheibler, Gottfried Scholz, L.F. Werth, A. Carillo, M. Statkiewicz, K. O'Rourke, B. Meyler, H. Meltzer, Jiuan Heng, W.V. Davies. Art as mirror of life, human life as participating in a stage play, corresponds to the fervent search human being of the causes, reasons, puzzles of our existence which elude us in the concrete life. This XVII c. conception of Theatrum Mundi opens as this volume shows a fascinating field of investigation for our times. (shrink)
The purpose of the present essay is to exposit and interpret the principal contours of the phenomenology of Christianity proposed by Michel Henry in dialog with his theological critics. Against the claims commonly made about him, Henry is not a Gnostic of any sort: neither a monist, nor a dualist, nor a pantheist, nor a denier of faith, nor a world- or creation-denier or anything of the sort. He rather proposes a form of “life-idealism” according to which life (...) is the foundation of the possibility of the world, life assumes a visible, external representation in its activities in the world, and the meaning of the world is that it is the arena in which life pursues the goal of its own perfection and growth. Interpreted in this light, his thought is not Gnostic. (shrink)
Ethical Life sets out to act as a guide for those of us who want to better understand ethics. It offers answers to the two simplest and yet most difficult questions facing individuals who have fallen into the perplexities of contemporary life: Why be ethical, and how?
This paper proposes a basic revision of the understanding of teleology in biological sciences. Since Kant, it has become customary to view purposiveness in organisms as a bias added by the observer; the recent notion of teleonomy expresses well this as-if character of natural purposes. In recent developments in science, however, notions such as self-organization (or complex systems) and the autopoiesis viewpoint, have displaced emergence and circular self-production as central features of life. Contrary to an often superficial reading, Kant (...) gives a multi-faceted account of the living, and anticipates this modern reading of the organism, even introducing the term self-organization for the first time. Our re-reading of Kant in this light is strengthened by a group of philosophers of biology, with Hans Jonas as the central figure, who put back on center stage an organism-centered view of the living, an autonomous center of concern capable of providing an interior perspective. Thus, what is present in nuce in Kant, finds a convergent development from this current of philosophy of biology and the scientific ideas around autopoeisis, two independent but parallel developments culminating in the 1970s. Instead of viewing meaning or value as artifacts or illusions, both agree on a new understanding of a form of immanent teleology as truly biological features, inevitably intertwined with the self-establishment of an identity which is the living process. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that our understanding of life, as reflected in the biological and medical sciences but also in our everyday transactions, has been hampered by an inappropriate metaphysics. The metaphysics that has dominated Western philosophy, and that currently shapes most understanding of life and the life sciences, sees the world as composed of things and their properties. While these things appear to undergo all kinds of changes, it has often been supposed that this (...) amounts to no more than a change in the spatial relations of their unchanging parts. From antiquity, however, there has been a rival to this view, the process ontology, associated in antiquity with the fragmentary surviving writings of Heraclitus. In the last century it has been especially associated with the work of the British metaphysician and logician, Alfred North Whitehead. For process ontology, what most fundamentally exists is change, or process. What we are tempted to think of as constant things are in reality merely temporary stabilities in this constant flux of change, eddies in the flux of process. My main claim in this paper will be that a metaphysics of this latter kind is the only kind adequate to making sense of the living world. After explaining in more detail, the differences between these ontological views, I shall illustrate the advantages of a process ontology with reference to the category of organism. Finally I shall explore some further implications of a process ontology for biology and for philosophy. (shrink)
One of Jacques Derrida’s richest and most provocative works, Life Death challenges and deconstructs one of the most deeply rooted dichotomies of Western thought: life and death. Here Derrida rethinks the traditional philosophical understanding of the relationship between life and death, undertaking multidisciplinary analyses of a range of topics, including philosophy, linguistics, and the life sciences. In seeking to understand the relationship between life and death, he engages in close readings of Freudian psychoanalysis, the philosophy (...) of Nietzsche and Heidegger, French geneticist François Jacob, and epistemologist Georges Canguilhem. Derrida gave his “Life Death” seminar over fourteen sessions between 1975 and 1976 at the École normale supérieure in Paris as part of the preparation for students studying for the agrégation, a notoriously competitive qualifying exam. The theme for the exam that year was “Life and Death,” but Derrida made a critical modification to the title by dropping the coordinating conjunction. The resulting title of Life Death poses a philosophical question about the close relationship between life and death. Derrida argues that death must be considered neither as the opposite of life nor as the truth or fulfillment of it, but rather as that which both limits life and makes it possible. Through these captivating sessions, Derrida thus not only questions traditional understandings of the relationship between life and death, but also ultimately develops a new way of thinking about what he calls “life death.”. (shrink)
Our traditional ways of thinking about life and death are collapsing. In a world of respirators and embryos stored for years in liquid nitrogen, we can no longer take the sanctity of human life as the cornerstone of our ethical outlook. In this controversial book Peter Singer argues that we cannot deal with the crucial issues of death, abortion, euthanasia, and the rights of nonhuman animals unless we sweep away the old ethic and build something new in its (...) place. Singer outlines a new set of commandments, based on compassion and commonsense, for the decisions everyone must make about life and death. (shrink)
Based on fieldwork among Islamic bankers globally, this book questions the equivalence between money and ethnography and asks whether money can ever be adequate to the value backing it. "I enjoyed this book mightily.
According to the "sanctity-of-life" view, all human lives are equally valuable and inviolable, and it would be wrong to base life-and-death medical decisions on the quality of the patient's life. Examining the ideas and assumptions behind the sanctity-of-life view, Kuhse argues against the traditional view that allowing someone to die is morally different from killing, and shows that quality-of-life judgments are ubiquitous. Refuting the sanctity-of-life view, she provides a sketch of a quality-of-life ethics (...) based on the belief that there is a profound difference between merely being alive and life being in the patient's interest. (shrink)
Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou defy theoretical humanities' deeply-entrenched resistance to engagements with the life sciences. Rather than treat biology and its branches as hopelessly reductive and politically suspect, they view recent advances in neurobiology and its adjacent scientific fields as providing crucial catalysts to a radical rethinking of subjectivity. Merging three distinct disciplines--European philosophy from Descartes to the present, Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis, and affective neuroscience-- Johnston and Malabou triangulate the emotional life of affective subjects as conceptualized in philosophy (...) and psychoanalysis with neuroscience. Their experiments yield different outcomes. Johnston finds psychoanalysis and neurobiology have the potential to enrich each other, though affective neuroscience demands a reconsideration of whether affects can be unconscious. Investigating this vexed issue has profound implications for theoretical and practical analysis, as well as philosophical understandings of the emotions. Malabou believes scientific explorations of the brain seriously problematize established notions of affective subjectivity in Continental philosophy and Freudian-Lacanian analysis. She confronts philosophy and psychoanalysis with something neither field has seriously considered: the concept of wonder and the cold, disturbing visage of those who have been affected by disease or injury, such that they are no longer affected emotionally. At stake in this exchange are some of philosophy's most important claims concerning the relationship between the subjective mind and the objective body, the structures and dynamics of the unconscious dimensions of mental life, the role emotion plays in making us human, and the functional differences between philosophy and science. (shrink)
Uncontainable Life: A Biophilosophy of Bioart investigates the ways in which thinking through the contemporary hybrid artistico-scientific practices of bioart is a biophilosophical practice, one that contributes to a more nuanced understanding of life than we encounter in mainstream academic discourse. When examined from a Deleuzian feminist perspective and in dialogue with contemporary bioscience, bioartistic projects reveal the inadequacy of asking about life’s essence. They expose the enmeshment between the living and non-living, organic and inorganic, and, ultimately, (...)life and death. Instead of examining the defining criteria of life, bioartistic practices explore and enact life as processual, differential, and always already uncontainable, thus transcending preconceived material and conceptual boundaries. In this way, this doctoral thesis concentrates on the ontology of life as it emerges through the selected bioartworks: “semi-living” sculptures created by The Tissue Culture and Art Project and the performance May the Horse Live in Me by L’Art Orienté Objet. The hope is that such an ontology can enable future conceptualisations of an ethico-politics that avoids the anthropocentric logic dominant in the humanities and social sciences. (shrink)
Defending Life is arguably the most comprehensive defense of the pro-life position on abortion - morally, legally, and politically - that has ever been published in an academic monograph. It offers a detailed and critical analysis of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as well as arguments by those who defend a Rawlsian case for abortion-choice, such as J. J. Thomson. The author defends the substance view of persons as the view with the most explanatory power. (...) The substance view entails that the unborn is a subject of moral rights from conception. While defending this view, the author responds to the arguments of thinkers such as Boonin, Dworkin, Stretton, Ford and Brody. He also critiques Thomson's famous violinist argument and its revisions by Boonin and McDonagh. Defending Life includes chapters critiquing arguments found in popular politics and the controversy over cloning and stem cell research. (shrink)
“Here is the first Kant-biography in English since Paulsen’s and Cassirer’s only full-scale study of Kant’s philosophy. On a very deep level, all of Cassirer’s philosophy was based on Kant’s, and accordingly this book is Cassirer’s explicit coming to terms with his own historical origins. It sensitively integrates interesting facts about Kant’s life with an appreciation and critique of his works. Its value is enhanced by Stephen Körner’s Introduction, which places Cassirer’s Kant-interpretation in its historical and contemporary context.”—Lewis White (...) Beck “The first English translation of a 60-year-old classic intellectual biography. Those readers who know Kant only through the first _Critique_ will find their understanding of that work deepened and illuminated by a long explication of the pre-critical writings, but perhaps the most distinctive contribution is Cassirer’s argument that the later _Critiques_, and especially the _Critique of Judgment_, must be understood not as merely applying the principles of the first to other areas but as subsuming the latter into a larger and more comprehensive framework.”—Frederick J. Crown, _The Key Reporter _“_Kant’s Life and Thought_ is that rare achievement: a lucid and highly readable account of the life and work of one of the world’s profoundest thinkers. Now for the first time available in an admirable English translation, the book introduces the reader to two of the finest minds in the history of philosophy.”—Ashley Montagu. (shrink)