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)
Acting Now to End World Poverty Peter Singer. were our own, and we cannot deny that the suffering and death are bad. The second premise is also very difficult to reject, because it leaves us some wiggle room when it comes to situations in.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
This book is based on the William James Lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1982. It offers a new approach to the philosophical understanding of a person, taking as fundamental the process of living as a person, and emphasising the continuity and development across time of an individual life.
Various debates on the desirability and rationality of life-extending enhancements have been pursued under the presupposition that a generic psychological theory of personal identity is correct. I here discuss how the narrative approach to personal identity can contribute to these debates. In particular, I argue that two versions of the narrative approach offer good reasons to reject an argument against the rationality of life-extending enhancements.
Manfred Eigen extended Erwin Schroedinger’s concept of “life is physics and chemistry” through the introduction of information theory and cybernetic systems theory into “life is physics and chemistry and information.” Based on this assumption, Eigen developed the concepts of quasispecies and hypercycles, which have been dominant in molecular biology and virology ever since. He insisted that the genetic code is not just used metaphorically: it represents a real natural language.However, the basics of scientific knowledge changed dramatically within the (...) second half of the 20th century.Unfortunately, Eigen ignored the results of the philosophy of science discourse on essential features of natural languages and codes: a natural language or code emerges from populations of living agents that communicate. This contribution will look at some of the highlights of this historical development and the results relevant for biological theories about life. (shrink)
The presence of a human being/organism—a living human ‘whole’, with the defining tendency to promote its own welfare—has value in itself, as do the functions which compose it. Life is inseparable from health, since without some degree of healthy functionality the living whole would not exist. The value of life differs both within a single life and between lives. As with any other form of human flourishing, the value of life-and-health must be distinguished from the moral (...) importance of human beings: less fulfilled means not less important morally, but more in need of being fulfilled. That said, to say that life and health has value is not to say exactly what—if anything—that value requires by way of active promotion at a given time. Many factors must be taken into account in making health care decisions, even if the worth of all lives, and the dignity of all human beings, must in every case be acknowledged. (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)
Supervised injectable opioid assisted treament prescribes injectable opioids to individuals for whom other forms of addiction treatment have been ineffective. In this article, we examine arguments that opioid-dependent people should be assumed incompetent to voluntarily consent to clinical research on siOAT unless proven otherwise. We agree that concerns about competence and voluntary consent deserve careful attention in this context. But we oppose framing the issue solely as a matter of the competence of opioid-dependent people and emphasize that it should be (...) considered in the context of inequities in access to siOAT as a medical treatment. Consequently, we suggest that bioethics literature on nonexploitation, which focuses on clinical research in low-income countries, is helpful due to locating ethical issues within systemic social conditions. Finally, we consider the implications of our argument for the ethics of clinical research on siOAT. (shrink)
Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love--and it is these (...) actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life. Written in a lively and engaging style, and full of provocative examples, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters is a profound and original reflection on a subject of permanent human concern. (shrink)
How can we live life wisely? Tiberius argues that we need to develop the kind of wisdom that emphasizes the importance of learning from experience. We need to care about things that sustain us and give us good experiences, have perspective on our successes and failures, and be moderately self-aware and cautiously optimistic about human nature.
The strong version of the life-mind continuity thesis claims that mind can be understood as an enriched version of the same functional and organizational properties of life. Contrary to this view, in this paper I argue that mental phenomena offer distinctive properties, such as intentionality or representational content, that have no counterpart in the phenomenon of life, and that must be explained by appealing to a different level of functional and organizational principles. As a strategy, and following (...) Maturana’s autopoietic theory of cognition, I introduce a conceptual distinction between mind and cognition. I argue that cognition corresponds to the natural behaviour that every living being exhibits in the realization of its existence, and that, viewed in that way, cognition is a dynamic process of structural coupling that, unlike mental phenomena, involves no representational contents. On the basis of this distinction, I try to show that while life suffices for cognition, it does not suffice for mind. That is, that the strong continuity is not between life and mind but between life and cognition. (shrink)
In multi-stakeholder networks, actors from civil society, business and governmental institutions come together in order to find a common solution to a problem that affects all of them. Problems approached by such networks often affect people across national boundaries, tend to be very complex and are not sufficiently understood. In multi-stakeholder networks, information concerning a problem is gathered from different sources, learning takes place, conflicts between participants are addressed and cooperation is sought. Corporations are key actors in many networks, because (...) the problems addressed are frequently related to business activities. The aim of this article is to conceptualise multi-stakeholder networks by proposing a problem-centred stakeholder definition. From an analysis of several case studies, a life cycle model is deduced that distinguishes seven phases: initiation, acquaintance, first and second agreement, implementation, consolidation and institutionalisation. (shrink)
Some bioethicists have questioned the desirability of a line of biomedical research aimed at extending the length of our lives over what some think to be its natural limit. In particular, Leon Kass has argued that living longer is not such a great advantage, and that mortality is not a burden after all. In this essay, I evaluate his arguments in favour of such a counterintuitive view by elaborating upon some critical remarks advanced by John Harris. Ultimately, I argue that (...) nothing substantial has been said by Kass to undermine the desirability of life-extending technologies. (shrink)
Following from life history and attachment theory, individuals are predicted to be sensitive to variation in environmental conditions such that risk and uncertainty are internalized by cognitive, affective, and psychobiological mechanisms. In turn, internalizing of environmental uncertainty is expected to be associated with attitudes toward risk behaviors and investments in education. Native American youth aged 10–19 years (n = 89) from reservation communities participated in a study examining this pathway. Measures included family environmental risk and uncertainty, present and future (...) time perspective, adolescent attachment, attitudes toward risk, investments in education, and salivary cortisol. Results support the idea that environmental risk and uncertainty are internalized during development. In addition, internalizing mechanisms significantly predicted attitudes toward risk and education: (1) lower scores on future time perspective and higher cortisol predicted higher scores on risk attitudes, and (2) higher scores on future time perspective and lower scores on problems with attachment predicted higher self-reported school performance. Gender differences were seen, with males anticipating a shorter lifespan than females, which predicted higher scores on risk attitudes and lower school performance. Implications for research on adolescent problem behavior and academic achievement are discussed. (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)
This talk, delivered at De l''autopoièse à la neurophénoménologie: un hommage à Francisco Varela; from autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: a tribute to Francisco Varela, June 18–20, at the Sorbonne in Paris, explicates several links between Varela''s neurophenomenology and his biological concept of autopoiesis.
One of the strongest objections to the development and use of substantially life-extending interventions is that they would exacerbate existing unjust disparities of healthy lifespans between rich and poor members of society. In both popular opinion and ethical theory, this consequence is sometimes thought to justify a ban on life-prolonging technologies. However, the practical and ethical drawbacks of banning receive little attention, and the viability of alternative policies is seldom considered. Moreover, where ethicists do propose alternatives, there is (...) scant effort to consider their merits in light of developing world priorities. In response to these shortcomings, I distinguish four policy options and, on the basis of a plausible intuition about fairness, evaluate their implications for a fair distribution of healthy lifespans. I claim that even in developing nations it would be fairest to favor policies that promote equal access to at least one promising category of substantially life-extending intervention: calorie restriction mimetics. (shrink)
In Why Not Socialism?, GA Cohen defines socialism as the combined application of two moral principles: the egalitarian principle and the principle of community. The desirability of a social order organized around these two principles is illustrated by the ‘camping trip’ example. After describing the fundamental features of the camping trip scenario at reasonable length, Cohen argues that the desirability of such a social model is nearly self-explanatory, concluding therefore that the most significant challenges to socialism lie in its feasibility. (...) This article argues that the desirability of the camping trip model as an appropriate ideal for society is less obvious than Cohen acknowledges. To argue my point, I shall compare the camping trip with another social practice that is equally small sized and characterized by strong emotional ties among its members, but in which the conditions of what I shall call ‘goal-monism’ and discontinuity in time do not hold, namely, the family. (shrink)
Some decisions result in cognitive consequences such as information gained and information lost. The focus of this study, however, is decisions with consequences that are partly or completely noncognitive. These decisions are typically referred to as ‘real-life decisions’. According to a common complaint, the challenges of real-life decision making cannot be met by decision theory. This complaint has at least two principal motives. One is the maximizing objection that to require agents to determine the optimal act under real-world (...) constraints is unrealistic. The other is the precision objection that the numeric requirements for applying decision theory are overly demanding for real-life decisions. Responses to both objections are aired in the History section of this chapter. The maximizing objection is addressed with reference to work by Weirich and Pollock, while the precision objection is countered via a proposal by Kyburg and another by Gärdenfors and Sahlin. However, the Current Research section urges a different response to the precision objection by introducing a comparative version of decision theory. Drawing on Chu and Halpern’s notion of generalized expected utility, this version of decision theory permits many choices to be based on merely comparative plausibilities and utilities. Finally, the Further Research section undertakes an open-ended exploration of three of the assumptions upon which this form of decision theory (and many others) is based: transitivity, independence, and plausibilistic decision rules. (shrink)
This book combines an account of the autonomy of philosophy with a new theory of consciousness. The account of philosophy is rooted in the question of the meaning of life. This question, it is argued, is neither obscure nor obsolete, but rather reflects an ancient and natural concern to which all other traditional philosophical problems can be squarely related; allowing them to be reconnected with natural sources of interest, and providing a diagnosis of the typical lines of opposition to (...) be found across philosophy’s debates. The question of the meaning of life is answered with nihilism: reality is meaningless. But finding nothing pernicious in this, the author rejects the various strategies devised in the 20th century for evading or coping with nihilism. Nihilism would be false if there were a transcendent context of meaning. But in correctly retreating from this prospect, it is claimed, philosophy erroneously retreated from the concept of transcendence itself. For only in terms of this concept can the contemporary problem of consciousness be solved, thereby avoiding an untenable revisionism: either of our conception of consciousness or the physical world. In terms of the transcendence of consciousness (which has no scientific implications), the author explains how the ‘block universe’ account of time suggested by contemporary physics can be reconciled with a temporal present, and why commitment to universals seems irrevocable. The book concludes that philosophy’s cultural role is to maintain a rational discussion about transcendence, and that through greater self-awareness, it can regain its influence. (shrink)
This paper surveys recent philosophy of biology. It aims to introduce outsiders to the field to the recent literature (which is reviewed in the footnotes) and the main recent debates. I concentrate on three of these: recent critiques of the replicator/vehicle distinction and its application to the idea of the gene as the unit of section; the recent defences of group selection and the idea that standard alternatives to group selection are in fact no more than a disguised form of (...) group selection; and recent ideas on the role of selection in evolution, especially the role of selection in structuring the large-scale history of life. The paper connects philosophy of biology to some more general problems in the philosophy of science, and concludes with a few suggestions about unfinished business. (shrink)
Artists and designers working in the fields of generative and bio art frequently focus on designing speculative visions of how nature can be reimagined with the use of computational media and synthetic biology. Centered on the unique artistic strategies of reimagining life forms, this paper analyzes and compares a selection of generative software-based projects, in which artists are mimicking different natural phenomena and have the tendency to beautify nature and life, with bio art projects, where ethical considerations are (...) prioritized over other aspects of the work. Experimenting with software and producing code-based generative art can be a relatively accessible creative endeavor while working with synthetic biology requires more demanding and controlled workplace conditions and specialized equipment. Despite the differences in accessibility and usability, both fields of generative and bio art challenge the boundaries of contemporary artistic practice and research by mapping, provoking and contemplating the dramatic changes of life forms, in the era when living matter can be re-engineered into a new material capable of computing. (shrink)
This article describes experiences that enhanced life purpose in 21 Thai adolescents living in Southern Thailand. Thailand is undergoing rapid change from technology, a globalizing economy, and shifting social norms. A phenomenological analysis of in-depth interviews and stories to better understand how Thai youth themselves experience and describe their life purposes revealed two main themes. First, enhancing life purpose is a trial-and-error process that integrates receiving a good opportunity, being urged by others to contemplate the question ‘What (...) will you do when you grow up?’ and having a positive role model. Second, enhancing life purpose is about accomplishing in life through love of self, gratitude to beneficent others, and sacrifice and awareness of responsibility towards society. Findings provide insights for parents, school nurses and teachers to assist adolescents to enhance life purpose. (shrink)
Theories of well-being tell us what makes a life good for the one who lives it. But there is more to what makes a life worth living than just well-being. We care about the worth of our lives, and we are right to do so. I defend an objective list theory of the worth of a life: The most worthwhile lives are those high in various objective goods. These principally include welfare and meaning. By distinguishing between worth (...) and welfare, we can capture the intuitive pull of broad theories of welfare without their liabilities. (shrink)
Spiritual formation currently lacks a robust epistemology. Christian theology and philosophy often spend more time devoted to an epistemology of propositions rather than an epistemology of knowing persons. This paper is an attempt to move toward a more robust account of knowing persons in general and God in particular. After working through various aspects of the nature of this type of knowledge this theory is applied to specific issues germane to spiritual formation, such as the justification of understanding spiritual growth (...) on an integrative and holistic (heart and mind) model, the reality of hearing God’s voice, and knowing his activity, as well as how such a theory should change the shape of sermons, evangelism, and apologetics. (shrink)
This article, prompted by an extended essay published in the Journal of Medical Ethics by Charles Foster, and the current controversy surrounding the case of Vincent Lambert, analyses the legal and ethical arguments in relation to the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness. The article analyses the legal framework through the prism of domestic law, case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and examines (...) the challenge to the ethical consensus made by Foster. It concludes that the right approach remains a version of the approach that has prevailed for the last 25 years since the decision in Airedale NHS Trust v Bland AC 789, refined to reflect that that there is now, and rightly, a much more limited place for judgments made about the ‘burden’ of treatment or the quality of life enjoyed by the person made on the basis of assumptions about that person as a category as opposed to investigation of that person as an individual human being. (shrink)
It seems to be widely assumed that the only effect of the Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber dynamical collapse mechanism on the `tails' of the wavefunction is to reduce their weight. In consequence it seems to be generally accepted that the tails behave exactly as do the various branches in the Everett interpretation except for their much lower weight. These assumptions are demonstrably inaccurate: the collapse mechanism has substantial and detectable effects within the tails. The relevance of this misconception for the dynamical-collapse theories is (...) debatable, though. (shrink)
In Life Beyond the Gene, Steven Rose offers a theory of life which insists that we as humans -- and indeed all living creatures -- create our own futures, though in circumstances not of our own choosing. Placing the organism at the center of life, Rose confronts the ideology of reductionism and ultra-Darwinism, with its insistence that all aspects of human life from sexual preference to infanticide, political orientation to violence, male domination to alcoholism, are in (...) our genes and are the inevitable consequences of natural selection. These claims, Rose asserts, are not only socially naive, but fundamentally misunderstand the active and irreducible nature of living processes. Rose argues that life depends on the elaborate web of interactions that occur within cells, organisms, and ecosystems, in which DNA has one part to play. From early in their development, living organisms have to be capable of quasi-independent existence while growing to maturity. If we are to understand life, we must recapture an understanding of the entire living organism and its trajectory through time and space. Rose calls these trajectories lifelines. Provocative and incisive, Life Beyond the Gene provides a compelling response to those enthusiasts of the gene who would deny the complexity of life. (shrink)
Abstract Objections to life extension often focus on its effects for individual well-being. Prominent amongst these concerns is the possibility that life extending technologies will extend lifespan without preventing the ageing of the mind. Writers on the subject express the fear that life extending drugs will keep us physically youthful whilst our minds decay, succumbing to dementia, boredom, and loneliness. Generally these fears remain speculative, in part due to the absence of genuine life extending technologies. In (...) this paper, however, I examine the implications of an existing life extension technology. Caloric restriction (CR) and drugs that mimic its effects, such as rapamycin, metformin and resveratrol have been shown to increase average and maximum lifespan in a wide variety of organisms, and seem likely to do so in humans. Moreover, some CR mimetic drugs (CRMs) are already widely used. This means that they present a pressing test case for fears about mental ageing in an extended life. Misgivings about mental ageing can be divided into biomedical factors such as the likelihood of brain ageing, and psychological factors such as loss of meaning and boredom. I argue that studies of CR suggest that brain ageing will be beneficially slowed. However, it is less clear that deleterious aspects of psychological ageing can be similarly retarded. I argue that this reduces the desirability of life extension unless major social changes can be made. (shrink)
Over the course of the last three decades, computer simulations have become a major tool of doing science and engaging with the world, not least in an effort to predict and intervene in a future to come. Born in the context of the Second World War and the discipline of physics, simulations have long spread into most diverse fields of enquiry and technological application. This paper introduces a topical collection focussing on simulations in the life sciences. Echoing the current (...) state of tinkering, fast developments, segmentation of knowledge and interdisciplinary collaboration, and in an effort to bridge the science-humanities divide, the contributors to this collection come from multiple disciplinary backgrounds, including information studies, cognitive sciences, philosophy and biology. The ambiguous character of simulations, their cutting across scientific disciplines, analysis and prediction, understanding and doing, gave rise to their success in contemporary life sciences and has been the object of much scientific debate. One of the main aims of this topical collection, by contrast, is to call into question the assumption of an obvious use and easy transfer of methods between fields of knowledge as diverse as, e.g. physics and biology. The collection presents historical case studies from various biological sub-fields. The articles study how simulations are used and the ways they contribute specifically to our understanding of life. Taking up Sergio Sismondo’s description of simulations as “compromises” and “glue”, they also critically engage with the question of what exactly the life sciences have been gluing together over the last two decades. (shrink)
The work of Dan Brock and Helga Kuhse is typical of the current stream of thought rejecting the validity of sanctity of life appeals to instill objective inviolable worth in human life regardless of the quality of life of the patient. The context of a person's life is supremely important. In their systems life can have high value, yet the value of life can be outweighed by the force of other disvalues. The notion of (...) quality of life has increasingly come to signify the measurement of the worth of a person's life itself. Having a life equals personal life. Any objectivity to life resides in 'personal', 'biographical', or 'creative' life, not mere biological life. Personal life represents the minimal threshold for any objective worth. In responding to this challenge, John Finnis has argued extensively that life is an intrinsic good – a basic human good. Following from our grasp of human life as a basic incommensurable good, it cannot be practically reasonable both to affirm that (a) 'human life is a basic human good', and (b) that 'human life qua human life can be intentionally acted against to its destruction'. Yet, if the good of human life can be considered self-evident, the self-evidence of the basic human good qua good does not mean that dialectical reasoning cannot be engaged in to indirectly support the practical reasonableness of respecting the good of human life in the deliberative choices that persons make concerning their actions. It is to the use of such dialectical reasoning, supportive of the status of human life as such a basic human good, that the article is primarily concerned to draw out and articulate. (shrink)
A "wrongful life" suit is based on the purported tortious liability of a genetic counsellor towards an infant with hereditary defects, with the latter asserting that he or she would not have been born at all if not for the counsellor's negligence. This negligence allegedly lies in the failure on the part of the defendant adequately to advice the parents or to conduct properly the relevant testing and thereby prevent the child's conception or birth. This paper will offer support (...) for the thesis that it would be both feasible and desirable to endorse "wrongful life" compensation actions. The genetic counsellor owed a duty of due professional care to the impaired newborn who now claims that but for the counsellor's negligence, he or she would not have been born at all. The plaintiff's defective life constitutes a compensable injury. A sufficient causal link may exist between the plaintiff's injury and the defendant's breach of duty of due professional care and an appropriate measure of damages can be allocated to the disabled newborn. Sanctioning a "wrongful life" cause of action does not necessarily entail abandoning valuable constraints with regard to abortion and euthanasia. Nor does it inevitably lead to an uncontrolled slide down a "slippery slope". (shrink)
Through a re-articulation of Derridean différance, Bernard Stiegler claims that the human is defined by an originary default that displaces all psychic and social life onto technical supplements. His philosophy of technics re-articulates the logic of the supplement as concerning both human reflexivity and its supports, and the history of the différance of life itself. This has been criticised for reducing Derrida's work to a metaphysics of presence, and for instituting a humanism of the relation to the inorganic. (...) By refuting these claims, this article will show that Stiegler's doubling of différance enables him to articulate the human as constituted by both the individuation characteristic of ‘life’, and that of a technical, psychic, and collective individuation. Putting forward a reading of the logic of the trace in life, and emphasising the aspects of Leroi-Gourhan, Simondon, and Canguilhem that Stiegler uses in his reading of Derrida, I will demonstrate that the political stakes of adaption and adoption in his Noopolitics require this re-articulation of différance. Technics shapes the human future, arising from this differential mutation; marking the invention of the human as the site of the political. (shrink)