How Do We See That Something Is Living? Synthetic Creatures and Phenomenology of Perception*

The creation of synthetic life forms raises the question of what we mean when we say that a synthetic cell is “alive.” This paper analyzes the problem of aliveness both as an epistemological question (how can we know?) and as a phenomenological question (how can we perceive?). It introduces basic co...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Worldviews
Main Author: Rehmann-Sutter, Christoph 1959-
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: 2013
In:Worldviews
Year: 2013, Volume: 17, Issue: 1, Pages: 10-25
Further subjects:B phenomenology in biology synthetic biology philosophy of biology definitions of life perception of livingness Husserl
Online Access: Volltext (Verlag)
Description
Summary:The creation of synthetic life forms raises the question of what we mean when we say that a synthetic cell is “alive.” This paper analyzes the problem of aliveness both as an epistemological question (how can we know?) and as a phenomenological question (how can we perceive?). It introduces basic concepts that can be used in a phenomenological analysis of the “givenness” of life and argues that aliveness can only be seen with reference to the experiences of the observer as him/herself living. Life is therefore inherently ambiguous. When perceiving other life forms, we are aware of our own life. In order to develop a concept of the “other life” of a synthetic bacterium, we need to be aware of projecting perceptual evidence of our own life onto that of other species. The concept of “other life” can address a very basic layer: seeing another life form’s being-in-the-world as (1) a center of its own spontaneity, (2) a particular way of being in time that can be described as duration, and (3) as a system of processes that contain their own sense as practices.
ISSN:1568-5357
Contains:In: Worldviews
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1163/15685357-01701002