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The Nature of Life: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives from Philosophy and Science

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By: Mark A Bedau(Editor), Carol E Cleland(Editor)

440 pages, 50 b/w illus, 12 tabs

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | Sep 2010 | #185143 | ISBN-13: 9780521517751
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £103.00 $135/€117 approx
Paperback | Nov 2018 | #243674 | ISBN-13: 9781108722063
Available for pre-order: Due Nov 2018 Details
NHBS Price: £23.99 $31/€27 approx

About this book

Bringing together the latest scientific advances and some of the most enduring subtle philosophical puzzles and problems, The Nature of Life collects original historical and contemporary sources to explore the wide range of issues surrounding the nature of life. Selections ranging from Aristotle and Descartes to Sagan and Dawkins are organised around four broad themes covering classical discussions of life, the origins and extent of natural life, contemporary artificial life creations and the definition and meaning of 'life' in its most general form. Each section is preceded by an extensive introduction connecting the various ideas discussed in individual chapters and providing helpful background material for understanding them. With its interdisciplinary perspective, this fascinating collection is essential reading for scientists and philosophers interested in astrobiology, synthetic biology and the philosophy of life.

"Editing a book of this kind always entails a risk because the particular professional interests and idiosyncrasies of the editors will affect the choice of contributions. However, I believe that the multifarious and matching interests of the editors were instrumental in producing an up-to-date and complete collection that will help the student of biology and philosophy alike. The editors did an outstanding job at devising an anthology that will be useful as a teaching instrument in a variety of classes in a variety of different disciplines. A marvellous book."
Metapsychology Online Reviews


About the authors

Part I. Classical Discussions of Life:
1. De Anima (selections) Aristotle
2. Treatise on Man René Descartes
3. Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment (selections) Immanuel Kant
4. What is Life? (selections) Erwin Schrödinger
5. The nature of life Alexander Oparin
6. What is the meaning of 'life'? Ernst Mayr
7. The Principles of Life (selections) Tibor Gánti

Part II. The Origin and Extent of Natural Life:
8. The origin of life: a review of facts and speculation Leslie E. Orgel
9. Small molecule interactions were central to the origin of life Robert Shapiro
10. Are the different hypotheses on the emergence of life as different as they seem? Iris Fry
11. The universal nature of biochemistry Norman Pace
12. Is there a common chemical model for life in the universe? Steven A. Benner, Alonso Ricardo and Matthew A. Carrigan
13. Searching for life in the universe: lessons from Earth Kenneth H. Nealson
14. The possibility of alternative microbial life on Earth Carol E. Cleland and Shelley D. Copley
15. Introduction to the limits of organic life in planetary systems National Research Council of the National Academies

Part III. Artificial Life and Synthetic Biology:
16. Learning from functionalism: prospects for strong artificial life Elliott Sober
17. Life, 'artificial life', and scientific explanation Marc Lange
18. Alien life: how would we know? Margaret A. Boden
19. Automatic design and manufacture of robotic life forms Hod Lipson and Jordan P. Pollack
20. A giant step towards artificial life? David Deamer
21. Approaches to semi-synthetic minimal cells: a review Pier Luigi Luisi, Francesca Ferri and Pasquale Stano
22. Creating 'real life' Evelyn Fox Keller

Part IV. Defining and Explaining Life:
23. Definitions of life Carl Sagan
24. The seven pillars of life Daniel E. Koshland
25. A universal definition of life: autonomy and open-ended evolution Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo, Juli Pereto and Alvaro Moreno
26. Does 'life' have a definition? Carol Cleland and Christopher Chyba
27. Sentient symphony Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan
28. Defining life Kim Sterelny and Paul Griffiths
29. Universal Darwinism Richard Dawkins
30. What is life? Was Schrödinger right? Stuart A. Kauffman
31. Four puzzles about life Mark A. Bedau

Supplemental bibliography on life

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Mark A. Bedau is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Reed College, Oregon and a regular Visiting Professor at the European School of Molecular Medicine, in Milan, Italy. He is an internationally recognized leader in the philosophical and scientific study of living systems and has published and lectured extensively on issues concerning emergence, evolution, life, mind, and the social and ethical implications of creating life from nonliving materials.

Carol E. Cleland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado (Boulder). She is a central figure in the emerging science of astrobiology and has published in major science as well as philosophy journals. Her research focuses on issues in scientific methodology, historical science (especially earth and planetary science), biology (especially microbiology, origins of life, the nature of life, and astrobiology), and the theory of computation.

- Aristotle
- René Descartes
- Immanuel Kant
- Erwin Schrödinger
- Alexander Oparin
- Ernst Mayr
- Tibor Gánti
- Leslie E. Orgel
- Robert Shapiro
- Iris Fry
- Norman Pace
- Steven A. Benner
- Alonso Ricardo
- Matthew A. Carrigan
- Kenneth H. Nealson
- Carol E. Cleland
- Shelley D. Copley
- National Research Council of the National Academies
- Elliott Sober
- Marc Lange
- Margaret A. Boden
- Hod Lipson
- Jordan P. Pollack
- David Deamer
- Pier Luigi Luisi
- Francesca Ferri
- Pasquale Stano
- Evelyn Fox Keller
- Carl Sagan
- Daniel E. Koshland
- Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo
- Juli Pereto
- Alvaro Moreno
- Christopher Chyba
- Lynn Margulis
- Dorion Sagan
- Kim Sterelny
- Paul Griffiths
- Richard Dawkins
- Stuart A. Kauffman
- Mark A. Bedau

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