Living beings as differences


Alfredo Marcos

Summary: 1. Introduction: Philosophy of life or philosophy of biology? 2. Thinking life or thinking the living being? 3. Living beings as differences. 3.1. Constitutive and comparative differences. 3.2. The unity of differences in the final difference. 3.3. The intelligibility of the final difference. 4. Conclusion.

Abstract: Philosophy has investigated the phenomenon of life [throughout this article, the word "life" is used in its biological sense, not in its biographical sense] from two perspectives: the philosophy of life (PhL) and the philosophy of biology (PhB). Both perspectives are currently converging (section 1). PhL uses more and more information from biology, and PhB has recently broadened its scope to include problems such as the concept of life and the ontology of living beings. This article claims that the concept of living being is prior to that of life, and that we cannot understand what life is if we do not deal first with the ontological question of the living being (section 2). In order to investigate this kind of problem we need the conceptual resources of both the above-mentioned perspectives. The convergence between these two perspectives needs therefore to be welcomed and fostered. In order to contribute to this convergence, this paper addresses the ontology of living beings via the concept of difference (section 3) which belongs to both traditions. We find that the concept of difference is already present in Aristotle's biological and philosophical works. Today it has appeared forcefully in the so-called philosophy of difference, as well as in the biology of development. The thesis that will be defended here is that each living being is a difference, and that finding out what this is will require metaphorical creativity and the analogical use of biological concepts. These are the conclusions summarized in section 4.

Keywords: philosophy of life, philosophy of biology, living being, difference, metaphor.