- This pseudo-Paper is intended as the mechanism to record time spent on the Note 'Life1' during my Thesis research, as from 2011.
- For the actual time recorded, click on "Paper Statistics" above.
Write-up2 (as at 30/06/2020 09:17:17): Life
- There are (at least) two sub-topics that fall under this topic:-
- Lives: Life as an (extended) event – the career of an individual.
- Life: Life as a biological process.
- I assume that lives can be had by individuals that do not have (biological) life, but think it unhelpful to talk of non-biological individuals as “alive”, except in a figurative sense.
- Life – and its correlate, death4 – is a biological process, on which the word of the biologist (maybe as clarified by the philosopher) is final.
- I’m open to the idea that alternative biologies – other than the carbon-based exemplar ubiquitous on earth – are possible – or at least conceivable. So, anything sufficiently complex that “can extract energy from its environment, grow, repair damage to its body, and reproduce5” is alive (Elliott Sober). We wouldn’t want to deny that aliens are alive, nor sufficiently complex machines of the far future.
- What I object is the notion that computer programmes are – or will eventually be – “alive” in the same sense as organisms are alive, though their hosting computers might be6.
- "Tegmark (Max) - Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" has – as is indicated by the book’s title – three versions of life:-
- Life 1.0: Biological Evolution – no hardware or software change within a lifetime.
- Life 2.0: Cultural Evolution – software, but not hardware, change within a lifetime. Learning.
- Life 3.0: Technological Evolution – potential for both software and hardware change within a lifetime.
- "Al-Khalili (Jim) & McFadden (Johnjoe) - Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology" has recently raised the question whether quantum phenomena7 are essential to life.
- So, interesting philosophical questions about Life include:-
- Just what is (biological) life?
- When does biological life begin? This is presumably an empirical question, the answer to which will vary from species to species.
- Are there borderline cases of life?
- When does life cease? Again, the answer to this question will be species-dependent.
- Can life intermit8? Does it make sense to say that so-and-so died (on the operating table, say) and then revived?
- Interesting philosophical questions about Lives include:-
- How are lives individuated?
- What sort of things can have lives?
- How closely coupled is the life of a human organism9 with the life of a human person10?
- Can a life lived courtesy of a human organism be continued after the death of that organism?
- A starting point for Life is "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities".
- Similarly, for Lives: "Wollheim (Richard) - Living", from "Wollheim (Richard) - The Thread of Life".
- For a discussion of the possibility of Life after Death, see this Note11.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read12, include the following:-
- "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - When Do Persons Begin and End?", Baker
- "Dyson (Freeman) - Origins of Life", Dyson
- "Feldman (Fred) - Life-Functional Theories of Life", Feldman
- "Feldman (Fred) - Vitalist Theories of Life", Feldman
- "Kazez (Jean) - Life Doesn't Begin at Conception", Kazez
- "McFadden (Johnjoe) - Life is quantum", McFadden
- "Pross (Addy) - What is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology", Pross
- "Ruse (Michael) - Does life have a purpose?", Ruse
- "Skillings (Derek J.) - Life is not easily bounded", Skillings
- "Wilson (Jack) - Biological Individuality - The identity and Persistence of Living Entities", Wilson
- "Wollheim (Richard) - Living", Wollheim
- A reading list (where not covered elsewhere) might start with:-
- "Agar (Nicholas) - Biocentrism and the Concept of Life", Agar
- "Al-Khalili (Jim) & McFadden (Johnjoe) - Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology", Al-Khalili & McFadden
- "Archard (David) - Procreating", Archard
- "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - On the Very Idea of a Form of Life", Baker
- "Bedau (Mark A.) - The Nature of Life", Bedau
- "Bedau (Mark A.) - The Nature of Life", Bedau13
- "Butler (J.A.V.) - The Life Process", Butler14
- "Difrisco (James) & Mossio (Matteo) - Diachronic Identity in Complex Life Cycles: An Organizational Perspective", Difrisco
- "Dupre (John) & O'Malley (Maureen A.) - Varieties of Living Things: Life at the Intersection of Lineage and Metabolism", Dupre
- "Emilsson (Eyjolfur K.) - On the Length of a Good Life", Emilsson
- "Frossard (Philippe) - The Lottery of Life: The New Genetics and the Future of Mankind", Frossard
- "Grobstein (Clifford) - The Strategy of Life", Grobstein15
- "Jevons (F.R.) - The Biochemical Approach to Life", Jevons16=15
- "Lemos (Noah) - Assessing Lives", Lemos
- "Levy (Steven) - Artificial Life: The Quest for a New Creation", Levy
- "Luper (Steven) - Life's Meaning", Luper
- "Noble (Denis) - The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes", Noble
- "Noble (Denis) - Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity", Noble
- "Oderberg (David) - Synthetic Life and the Bruteness of Immanent Causation", Oderberg
- "Schrodinger (Erwin) - What is Life?", Schrodinger
- "Tegmark (Max) - Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence", Tegmark
- "Wilson (Edward O.) - The Diversity of Life", Wilson
- "Wollheim (Richard) - The Thread of Life", Wollheim
- This is mostly a place-holder17.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (30/06/2020 09:17:17).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
- At most, this must be “typical representatives” – else the infertile would not be alive.
- But – important though reproduction is for evolution – I’m not sure why this is essential.
- Note that computer hardware is unlikely to reproduce – or at least it’s not necessary that they should, as they can be manufactured – but that computer programmes would be able to – this seems to be claimed of AIs, who are hoped to be able to produce improved versions of themselves.
Footnote 7: Footnote 13: Not the same as the above paper!
- I say this by analogy with my thoughts on the consciousness of computer programs.
- However, I’m not sure the analogy works, as the “living” is said to be at the program level, and not to involve any physical changes to the computer (other than the usual changes to the contents of memory locations).
Footnote 14: Hailing from 1970, this book is dated, and might only be used as background for the thoughts of philosophers writing about this time.
Footnotes 15, 16: Another very dated book.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020