, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 385-387
Date: 14 Nov 2012

On the Universality of the Living: A Few Epistemological Notes

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In order to make progress on the basic properties of life, it might be helpful to highlight some epistemology aspects. To start with, at the level of the question asked in this session, about universality, it is important to make a distinction between “essence” on the one hand, and “properties” on the other.

To clarify this point with a very simple example: let us consider an airplane, and ask the question, “what is an airplane?” You cannot answer: “an airplane flies”, because this is a property. Of course it is the most important property, but it says nothing about the essence - the real nature - of an airplane. If you want to grasp the essence, you have to answer giving the blueprint which permits the flying (motor, wings, ratio weight/velocity…). Likewise, when you are talking about life, the question “what is life?” cannot be answered by saying - as many do - “reproduction”. Reproduction is certainly the most important property to account for population evolution and biodiversity, b ...