- 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 12/06/2019 11:34:05): 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 that anything sufficiently complex that “can extract energy from its environment, grow, repair damage to its body, and reproduce” 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 be5.
- "Al-Khalili (Jim) & McFadden (Johnjoe) - Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology" has recently raised the question whether quantum phenomena6 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 intermit7? 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 organism8 with the life of a human person9?
- 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 Note10.
- Works on this topic that I’ve actually read11, 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", Bedau12
- "Butler (J.A.V.) - The Life Process", Butler13
- "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", Grobstein14
- "Jevons (F.R.) - The Biochemical Approach to Life", Jevons15=14
- "Lemos (Noah) - Assessing Lives", Lemos
- "Levy (Steven) - Artificial Life: The Quest for a New Creation", Levy
- "Luper (Steven) - Life's Meaning", Luper
- "Oderberg (David) - Synthetic Life and the Bruteness of Immanent Causation", Oderberg
- "Schrodinger (Erwin) - What is Life?", Schrodinger
- "Wilson (Edward O.) - The Diversity of Life", Wilson
- "Wollheim (Richard) - The Thread of Life", Wollheim
- This is mostly a place-holder16.
- This is the write-up as it was when this Abstract was last output, with text as at the timestamp indicated (12/06/2019 11:34:05).
- Link to Latest Write-Up Note.
Footnote 6: Footnote 12: 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 13: Hailing from 1970, this book is dated, and might only be used as background for the thoughts of philosophers writing about this time.
Footnotes 14, 15: Another very dated book.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019