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)
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)
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)
Chapter 1 FROM ORDER TO DISORDER 5 mins. John enters and goes into his office. He says something very quickly about having made a bad mistake. He had sent the review of a paper. . . . The rest of the sentence is inaudible. 5 mins.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Integrating theory with case studies, this book examines the practical application of moral theory in clinical decision-making through 40 composite cases based on actual clinical experience. Complex, realistic, and challenging, these examples contain the multiplicity of factors faced in clinical crises, making this a superb exploration of the ways in which theory relates to actual life-or-death situations.
"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)
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)
Life's Values offers new analyses of the nature of pleasure, happiness, well-being, and meaning in life. Recognizing how individuals have different priorities, Goldman explains what is of ultimate value in our lives and argues that making our desires rational - relevantly informed of what it's like to satisfy them - maximizes well-being.
All of the attempts to date to find a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for life, in order to provide an essential definition of life, have failed. We only have at our disposal series of lists that contain diverse characteristics usually found in living beings. Some authors have drawn from this fact the conclusion that life is not a natural kind. It will be argued here that this conclusion is too hasty and that if life (...) is understood as a natural kind in the non-essentialist sense of a homeostatic property cluster, it is easy to see why the attempts to find a unique and essentialist definition of life have failed. Understanding life in this way would imply that the pretension to find such a type of definition should be abandoned. (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)
_Germinal Life_ is the sequel to the highly successful _Viroid Life_. Where _Viroid Life_ provided a compelling reading of Nietzsche's philosophy of the human, _Germinal Life_ is an original and groundbreaking analysis of little known and difficult theoretical aspects of the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. In particular, Keith Ansell Pearson provides fresh and insightful readings of Deleuze's work on Bergson and Deleuze's most famous texts _Difference and Repetition_ and _A Thousand Plateaus_. _Germinal Life _also provides new insights (...) into Deleuze's relation to some of the most original thinkers of modernity, from Darwin to Freud and Nietzsche, and explores the connections between Deleuze and more recent thinkers such as Adorno and Merleau-Ponty. (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)
This article argues for the elimination of the concept of life worth living from philosophical vocabulary on three complementary grounds. First, the basic components of this concept suffer from multiple ambiguities, which hamper attempts to ground informative evaluative and classificatory judgments about the worth of life. Second, the criteria proposed to track the extension of the concept of life worth living rest on unsupported axiological assumptions and fail to identify precise and plausible referents for this concept. And (...) third, the concept of life worth living is not shown to serve any major evaluative or classificatory purpose besides those served by already available axiological concepts. By eliminating the concept of life worth living, philosophers will free themselves of the task of addressing ill-posed axiological questions and ground reflection about the worth of life on more rigorous conceptual foundations. (shrink)
I shall be concerned in this paper with some philosophical puzzles raised by so-called “wrongful life” suits. These legal actions are obviously of great interest to lawyers and physicians, but philosophers might have a kind of professional interest in them too, since in a remarkably large number of them, judges have complained that the issues are too abstruse for the courts and belong more properly to philosophers and theologians. The issues that elicit this judicial frustration are those that require (...) the application to border-line cases of such philosophically interesting concepts as acting, causing, and the one that especially interests me, harming. I first became interested in the concept of harming in my work on the moral limits of the criminal law, where I had to come to terms with John Stuart Mill's famous “harm principle”–the principle that it is always a good reason in support of a criminal prohibition, indeed, the only legitimate reason, that it will prevent harm to persons other than the actor. I could not very well criticize that principle until I decided what the word “harm” must mean in its formulation. I gave what I took to be the requisite analysis of harm in my book Harm to Others. Here I wish to improve that analysis, examine its implications for civil as well as criminal liability, and test it on conceptually hard cases, especially cases of prenatal harming, that is, cases in which the wrongful causative conduct occurs before the victim's birth, and the harmed state that is its upshot consists in being born in an impaired condition. (shrink)
Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva's controversial article ‘After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?’ has received a lot of criticism since its publishing. Part of the recent criticism has been made by pro-life philosopher Christopher Kaczor, who argues against infanticide in his updated book ‘Ethics of Abortion’. Kaczor makes four arguments to show where Giubilini and Minerva's argument for permitting infanticide goes wrong. In this article I argue that Kaczor's arguments, and some similar arguments presented by other philosophers, are (...) mistaken and cannot show Giubilini and Minerva's view to be flawed. I claim that if one wants to reject the permissibility of infanticide, one must find better arguments for doing so. (shrink)
Life and the living (on Aristotelian biohorror) -- Supernatural horror as the paradigm for life -- Aristotle's De anima and the problem of life -- The ontology of life -- The entelechy of the weird -- Superlative life -- Life with or without limits -- Life as time in Plotinus -- On the superlative -- Superlative life I: Pseudo-Dionysius -- Negative vs. affirmative theology -- Superlative negation -- Negation and preexistent life (...) -- Excess, evil, and non-being -- Superlative life II: Eriugena -- Negation in the periphyseon -- The quaestio de nihilo: on nothing -- The quaestio de nihilo: superlative nothing -- Dark intelligible abyss -- Apophasis -- The apophatic logic -- Negation in Frege and Ayer -- Negation vs. subtraction in Badiou -- Negation and contradiction in Priest -- The dialetheic vitalism of negative theology -- Ellipses: Suhraward and the luminous void -- Univocal creatures -- On spiritual creatures -- Life as form in Aristotle -- The concept of the creature -- Univocity I: Duns Scotus vs. Aquinas -- Univocity in Aquinas' Summa theologica -- Univocity in Duns Scotus' Opus oxoniense -- The common nature of the creature -- Univocity II: Duns Scotus vs. Henry of Ghent -- Univocity in Henry of Ghent -- Negative vs. privative indetermination -- Absolute indetermination -- Univocity III: Deleuze's scholasticism three variations -- Spinoza et le problème de l'expression -- Différence et répétition -- Cours de Vincennes -- Univocal creatures -- Ellipses: Dgen and uncreated univocity -- Dark pantheism -- Everything and nothing -- Life as spirit in Aquinas -- The concept of the divine nature -- Immanence I: Eriugena's periphyseon -- Natura and the unthought -- Universal life -- Four statements on pantheism -- Immanence II: Duns Scotus' reportatio Ia -- Univocal immanence -- Actual infinity -- The pathology of the triple primacy -- Immanence III: Nicholas of Cusa's De docta ignorantia -- The coincidence of opposites -- The folds of life -- Absolute vs. contracted pantheism -- Speculative pantheism (Deleuze's interlocutors) -- Pantheism and pure immanence -- The insubordination of immanence in Deleuze -- Scholia I: the isomorphism of univocity and immanence -- Scholia II: the vitalist logic of common notions -- Scholia III: the life of substance -- Dark pantheism -- Ellipses: Wang Yangming and idealist naturalism -- Logic and life (on Kantian teratology) -- The wandering line from Aristotle to Kant -- Critique of life -- Spectral life and speculative realism -- Ontotheology in Kant, atheology in Bataille -- The night land. (shrink)
How should modern medicine's dramatic new powers to sustain life be employed? How should limited resources be used to extend and improve the quality of life? In this collection, Dan Brock, a distinguished philosopher and bioethicist and co-author of Deciding for Others (Cambridge, 1989), explores the moral issues raised by new ideals of shared decision making between physicians and patients. The book develops an ethical framework for decisions about life-sustaining treatment and euthanasia, and examines how these (...) class='Hi'>life and death decisions are transformed in health policy when the focus shifts from what is best for a patient to what is just for all patients. Professor Brock combines acute philosophical analysis with a deep understanding of the realities of clinical health policy. This is a volume for philosophers concerned with medical ethics, health policy professionals, physicians interested in bioethics, and undergraduate courses in biomedical ethics. (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)
'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)
There is no broadly accepted deﬁnition of ‘life.’ Suggested deﬁnitions face problems, often in the form of robust counter-examples. Here we use insights from philosophical investigations into language to argue that deﬁning ‘life’ currently poses a dilemma analogous to that faced by those hoping to deﬁne ‘water’ before the existence of molecular theory. In the absence of an analogous theory of the nature of living systems, interminable controversy over the deﬁnition of life is inescapable.
It is, by now, a well-established thesis that one major path that runs from Kant, through Fichte and Schelling, up to Hegel is defined by the conception of freedom as autonomy. It is less known and has been less frequently the object of study that from Kant to Hegel a new idea of life takes shape as well. Even less taken into account is the fact that these two paths from Kant to Hegel might be systematically intertwined. If the (...) notion of life in German Idealism is discussed at all, it has been discussed mostly in dealing with the philosophies of nature and biology of Kant and his successors. This framing is, of course, not wrong in itself; yet to my mind we can only fully account for the thought of what is living and the new interest that the idealist philosophies of nature actually deserve if we regard life as a practical notion. For the idealists, life is, as Fichte has it, an “analogue of freedom in nature,” and it describes the one form of object we can encounter in nature that possesses a kind of unity and organization that comes close to the unity and the organization of spirit. In various accounts of German Idealism, life is not only regarded as an analogue of a self-grounded order, but figures furthermore as a precondition of the actuality of freedom: It is in being alive that we might become free. How exactly this is so is of course not only a very complicated issue but also a contested one among Kant and his successors. In order to outline at least two basic approaches to relating ‘life’ and ‘autonomy,’ I would like to present a sketch of a reading of Kant, in whose works the analogy of life and autonomy first manifests itself, and of Hegel, who has to my mind most fully developed the potential of this constellation. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore three separate questions that are relevant to assessing the prudential value of life in infants with severe life-limiting illness. First, what is the value or disvalue of a short life? Is it in the interests of a child to save her life if she will nevertheless die in infancy or very early childhood? Second, how does profound cognitive impairment affect the balance of positives and negatives in a child’s future life? (...) Third, if the life of a child with life-limiting illness is prolonged, how much suffering will she experience and can any of it be alleviated? Is there a risk that negative experiences for such a child will remain despite the provision of palliative care? We argue that both the subjective and objective components of well-being for children could be greatly reduced if they are anticipated to have a short life that is affected by profound cognitive impairment. This does not mean that their overall well-being will be negative, but rather that there may be a higher risk of negative overall well-being if they are expected to experience pain, discomfort, or distress. Furthermore, we point to some of the practical limitations of therapies aimed at relieving suffering, such that there is a risk that suffering will go partially or completely unrelieved. Taken together, these considerations imply that some life-prolonging treatments are not in the best interests of infants with severe life-limiting illness. (shrink)
This article introduces a new model of the relationship between growth and learning and tests a set of hypotheses related to the development of adult competency using time allocation, anthropometric, and experimental task performance data collected between 1992 and 1997 in a multiethnic community in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Building on seminal work in life history theory by Hawkes, Blurton Jones and associates, and Kaplan and associates, the punctuated development model presented here incorporates the effects of both growth and (...) learning constraints on age-specific task performance. In addition, the payoff to investment in two forms of embodied capital, growth-based and learning-based, are examined in relation to features of the socioecology, including subsistence economy and family composition.The three main findings are:The development of adult competency in specific tasks entails a steplike relationship between growth- and experience-based forms of embodied capital in the ontogeny of ability acquisition.There is a trade-off between the acquisition of experience-based embodied capital in the form of skills and knowledge and immediate productivity among children. Time allocation to these alternatives is primarily determined by the short- and long-term costs and benefits to parents of investment in children’s embodied capital.The availability of laborers and the overall labor requirements of the household are major determinants of investment in alternate forms of embodied capital and resulting variation in children’s time allocation. The value of children’s labor to their parents is dependent upon the opportunity costs to engaging in other activities not only for the child in question but also for potential substitute laborers.These results have important implications for our understanding of the role of growth and learning in the evolution of the human juvenile period, as well as for our understanding of cross-cultural variation in child growth and development and patterns of work and play. (shrink)
A high profile context in which physics and biology meet today is in the new field of systems biology. Systems biology is a fascinating subject for sociological investigation because the demands of interdisciplinary collaboration have brought epistemological issues and debates front and centre in discussions amongst systems biologists in conference settings, in publications, and in laboratory coffee rooms. One could argue that systems biologists are conducting their own philosophy of science. This paper explores the epistemic aspirations of the field by (...) drawing on interviews with scientists working in systems biology, attendance at systems biology conferences and workshops, and visits to systems biology laboratories. It examines the discourses of systems biologists, looking at how they position their work in relation to previous types of biological inquiry, particularly molecular biology. For example, they raise the issue of reductionism to distinguish systems biology from molecular biology. This comparison with molecular biology leads to discussions about the goals and aspirations of systems biology, including epistemic commitments to quantification, rigor and predictability. Some systems biologists aspire to make biology more similar to physics and engineering by making living systems calculable, modelable and ultimately predictable—a research programme that is perhaps taken to its most extreme form in systems biology’s sister discipline: synthetic biology. Other systems biologists, however, do not think that the standards of the physical sciences are the standards by which we should measure the achievements of systems biology, and doubt whether such standards will ever be applicable to ‘dirty, unruly living systems’. This paper explores these epistemic tensions and reflects on their sociological dimensions and their consequences for future work in the life sciences. (shrink)
This paper discusses ethnomethodology's program in relation to the phenomenological life-world analysis of Alfred Schutz. A recent publication of Garfinkel's early writings sheds new light on how he made use of phenomenological reflections in order to create a new sociological approach. Garfinkel used Schutz's life-world analysis as a source of inspiration, called for 'misreading' in the sense of an alternate reading and developed a new, empirical approach to the analysis of social order which he called 'ethnomethodology'. Ethnomethodologists usually (...) acknowledge the historical importance of Schutz but emphasize that Garfinkel succeeded to overcome the limitations of phenomenological analyses and moved beyond. This view has spread above all in the Anglosaxon countries. In German sociology, Schutz's life-world analysis still has a much stronger standing than ethnomethodology and is interpreted as a systematic whole. Following Luckmann, it is discussed as a protosociological foundation of the methodology of social sciences or, following Srubar, as a philosophical anthropology with two poles: a subjective and a social, pragmatic pole. Both versions claim to analyze the meaningful constitution of the social world, to serve as a foundation of sociological methodology and to provide guidelines for an `adequate' sociology. While Garfinkel used phenomenological concepts for sociological analysis, Luckmann clearly distinguishes the two: you either do phenomenology (protosociology) or you do sociology (a theoretically guided, empirical sociology of knowledge). This paper describes the present-day debate in German sociology and compares ethnomethodology's program with these interpretations of Schutz's life-world analysis. (shrink)
Whatever we take “life” to mean, it must involve an attempt to describe the objective reality beyond scientists’ biases. Traditionally, this is thought to involve comparing our scientific categories to “natural kinds.” But this approach has been tainted with an implicit metaphysics, inherited from Aristotle, that does not fit biological reality. In particular, we must accept that biological categories will never be specifiable in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions or shared underlying physical structures that produce clean boundaries. Biology (...) blurs all lines and failure to embrace this unique feature has blocked attempts to reach consensus on the meaning of “life.” Thus, while the three classical accounts all fall short of offering a complete definition, their advocates fail to realize that they share the same view of life’s ultimate, functional hallmark: its uniquely rich adaptive capacity. I develop an account of life as adaptive capacity that sidesteps debates about the relative importance of specific mechanisms and the precise location of boundaries to bring the three classical accounts together under a shared conceptual framework. (shrink)
Do trees of life have roots? What do these roots look like? In this contribution, I argue that research on the origins of life might offer glimpses on the topology of these very roots. More specifically, I argue (1) that the roots of the tree of life go well below the level of the commonly mentioned ‘ancestral organisms’ down into the level of much simpler, minimally living entities that might be referred to as ‘protoliving systems’, and (2) (...) that further below, a system of roots gradually dissolves into non-living matter along several functional dimensions. In between non-living and living matter, one finds physico-chemical systems that I propose to characterize by a ‘lifeness signature’. In turn, this ‘lifeness signature’ might also account for a diverse range of biochemical entities that are found to be ‘less-than-living’ yet ‘more-than-non-living’. (shrink)
In this paper, I set out and defend a new theory of value, whole-life welfarism. According to this theory, something is good only if it makes somebody better off in some way in his life considered as a whole. By focusing on lifetime, rather than momentary, well-being, a welfarist can solve two of the most vexing puzzles in value theory, The Badness of Death and The Problem of Additive Aggregation.
When is it permissible to allow a newborn infant to die on the basis of their future quality of life? The prevailing official view is that treatment may be withdrawn only if the burdens in an infant's future life outweigh the benefits. In this paper I outline and defend an alternative view. On the Threshold View, treatment may be withdrawn from infants if their future well-being is below a threshold that is close to, but above the zero-point of (...) well-being. I present four arguments in favor of the Threshold View, and identify and respond to several counterarguments. I conclude that it is justifiable in some circumstances for parents and doctors to decide to allow an infant to die even though the infant's life would be worth living. The Threshold View provides a justification for treatment decisions that is more consistent, more robust, and potentially more practical than the standard view. (shrink)
Autonomy is a vital principle in medical law and ethics. It occupies a prominent place in all medico-legal and ethical debate. But there is a dangerous presumption that it should have the only vote, or at least the casting vote. This book is an assault on that presumption, and an audit of autonomy's extraordinary status. This book surveys the main issues in medical law, noting in relation to each issue the power wielded by autonomy, asking whether that power can be (...) justified, and suggesting how other principles can and should contribute to the law. It concludes that autonomy's status cannot be intellectually or ethically justified, and that positive discrimination in favour of the other balancing principles is urgently needed in order to avoid some sinister results. 'This book is a sustained attack on the hegemony of the idea of autonomy in medical ethics and law. Charles Foster is no respecter of authority, whether of university professors or of law Lords. He grabs his readers by their lapels and shakes sense into them through a combination of no-nonsense rhetoric and subtle argument that is difficult to resist.' Tony Hope, Professor of Medical Ethics, Oxford University 'This book is unlikely to be in pristine state by the time you have finished reading it. Whether that is because you have thrown it in the air in celebration or thrown it across the room in frustration will depend on your perspective. But this book cannot leave you cold. It is a powerful polemic on the dominance of autonomy in medical law, which demands a reaction. Charles Foster sets out a powerful case that academic medical lawyers have elevated autonomy to a status it does not deserve in either ethical or legal terms. In a highly engaging, accessible account, he challenges many of the views which have become orthodox within the academic community. This will be a book which demands and will attract considerable debate.' Jonathan Herring, Exeter College, Oxford University 'This is a learned, lively and thought-provoking discussion of problems central to the courts' approach to ethical issues in medical law. What principles are involved? More significantly, which really underlie and inform the process of seeking justice in difficult cases? Charles Foster persuasively argues, and demonstrates, that respect for autonomy is but one of a number of ethical principles which interact and may conflict. He also addresses the sensitive issue of the extent to which thoughts and factors which go to influence legal decisions may not appear in the judgments.' Adrian Whitfield QC. 'Introducing the Jake La Motta of medical ethics. Foster is an academic street-fighter who has bloodied his hands in the court room. He provides a stinging, relentless, ground attack on the Goliath of medical ethics: the central place of autonomy in liberal medical ethics. This is now the first port of call for those who feel that medical ethics has become autonomized.' Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, University of Oxford. "This important book offers a robust challenge to anyone, whether lawyer or 'ethicist', who sees respect for autonomy as the only game in town. It argues eloquently and effectively that, on the one hand, despite the reverence paid to it by judges, in practice the law, even in the context of consent, weaves together a number of moral threads of which autonomy is merely one, in the pursuit of a good decision. It argues on the other hand, that were the day-to-day practice of law to be guided primarily by respect for autonomy, this would be wrong. Foster concludes that whilst, 'any society that does not have laws robustly protecting autonomy is an unsafe and unhappy one', so too would be a society in which too much emphasis was placed on respect for autonomy at the expense of other important moral principles. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the role of autonomy and indeed of medical ethics, in the law." Michael Parker, Professor of Bioethics, University of Oxford. (shrink)
This book demonstrates how and why vitalism—the idea that life cannot be explained by the principles of mechanism—matters now. Vitalism resists closure and reductionism in the life sciences while simultaneously addressing the object of life itself. The aim of this collection is to consider the questions that vitalism makes it possible to ask: questions about the role and status of life across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities and questions about contingency, indeterminacy, relationality and change. All (...) have special importance now, as the concepts of complexity, artificial life and artificial intelligence, information theory, and cybernetics become increasingly significant in more and more fields of activity. (shrink)
The most popular concepts of happiness among psychologists and philosophers nowadays are concepts of happiness according to which happiness is defined as " satisfaction with life as a whole ". Such concepts are " Whole Life Satisfaction " concepts of happiness. I show that there are hundreds of non-equivalent ways in which a WLS conception of happiness can be developed. However, every precise conception either requires actual satisfaction with life as a whole or requires hypothetical satisfaction with (...)life as a whole. I show that a person can be "happy" at a time even though he is not actually satisfied with his life as a whole at that time. I also show that a person can be "happy" at a time even though it is not correct to say that if he were to think about his life at that time, he would be satisfied with it as a whole. My thesis is that if you think that happiness is the Good, you should avoid defining happiness as whole life satisfaction. (shrink)
Nietzsche's vision of the 'overman' continues to haunt the postmodern imagination. His call that 'man is something that must be overcome' can no longer be seen as simple rhetoric. Our experiences of the hybrid realities of artificial life have made the 'transhuman' a figure that looks over us all. Inspired by this vision, Keith Ansell Pearson sets out to examine if evolution is 'out of control' and machines are taking over. In a series of six fascinating perspectives, he links (...) Nietzsche's thought with the issues at stake in contemporary conceptions of evolution from the biological to the technological. _Viroid Life; Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition_ considers the hybrid, 'inhuman' character of our future with the aid of Nietzsche's philosophy. Keith Ansell Pearson contrasts Nietzsche and Darwin before introducing the more recent figures such as Giles Deleuze and Guy Debord to sketch a new thinking of technics and machines and stress the ambiguous character of our 'machine enslavement'. (shrink)
Mossner's Life of David Hume remains the standard biography of this great thinker and writer. First published in 1954, and updated in 1980, it is now reissued in paperback in response to increased interest in Hume. E. C. Mossner was Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. 'Mossner's work is a quite remarkable scholarly achievement; it will be an indispensable tool for Hume scholars and a treasure-trove of information for all students of the intellectual and (...) literary history of the eighteenth century' Richard H. Popkin in the Philological Quarterly. (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)