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Why I stopped worrying about the definition of life... and why you should as well

Machery, E (2012) Why I stopped worrying about the definition of life... and why you should as well. Synthese, 185 (1). 145 - 164. ISSN 0039-7857

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In several disciplines within science-evolutionary biology, molecular biology, astrobiology, synthetic biology, artificial life-and outside science-primarily ethics-efforts to define life have recently multiplied. However, no consensus has emerged. In this article, I argue that this is no accident. I propose a dilemma showing that the project of defining life is either impossible or pointless. The notion of life at stake in this project is either the folk concept of life or a scientific concept. In the former case, empirical evidence shows that life cannot be defined. In the latter case, I argue that, although defining life may be possible, it is pointless. I conclude that scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Machery, Emachery@pitt.eduMACHERY
Date: 1 March 2012
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Volume: 185
Number: 1
Page Range: 145 - 164
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s11229-011-9880-1
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0039-7857
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2013 20:12
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2019 15:59


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