How does philosophy define life? And how does it overlap and contrast with the concepts and nuances of other sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics?


closed as off-topic by another 'Homo sapien', Remi.b, theforestecologist, anongoodnurse, David Mar 16 '17 at 23:21

  • This question does not appear to be about biology within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ There is no scientific definition that differs from the philosophical definition. You should ask your question on philosophy.SE. If you happen to speak french this book by Bersini is a very good overview of the diversity and difficulties of how to define life $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Mar 16 '17 at 14:14
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it will be better suited for philosophy.SE $\endgroup$ – another 'Homo sapien' Mar 16 '17 at 14:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But, this question equally fits in the science section. The philosophy section might argue that it belong to the pure Science section. So, I request not to close but give sometime for other to follow. I just want to hear some thoughts, and might close if it doesn't receive as much attention. Any thoughts? $\endgroup$ – everestial007 Mar 16 '17 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ Nope philosophers will not consider that this is a science question. However, they may consider the question as being too broad such as the post What are the phylosophical implications of the definitions of life?. You should probably start with wikipedia > life $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Mar 16 '17 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ I don't speak french. Hope there is an english version of that book. Also, any personal reviews on that book. I couldn't see any rating or review online. Thanks $\endgroup$ – everestial007 Mar 16 '17 at 14:30

They ask different questions. Philosophy may ask what is life, is there a purpose behind it, etc. Biology asks how does it work, chemistry what are the chemical reactions that drive it, physics maybe how does physics allow for life and how life utilizes and impacts physics, and mathematics how can life and its components be described mathematically.

It is good to remember that all scientific disciplines branched off from philosophy (and religious philosophy) and that they are interconnected.

This is the answer to the part of your question that includes biology. If you want to discuss the meaning of life philosophically, you are welcome to come to do it on the philosophy page!


There is no difference along the lines of philosophy vs. science. However, there are broader and narrower definitions in biology.

The broadest I know of is "a self-replicating, chemical system (thing) with both exhibits heredity and some form of homeostasis (display internal negative entropy)", and some even argue the last part may be optional.

The narrowest also requires being made of cells, displaying growth, metabolism, adaptation, and response to stimuli. Some argue against these because they are either implicit in the other definition (homeostasis requires a metabolism, self-replication + heredity = adaptation), that they are unnecessary (cells or growth) or difficult to define themselves (response to stimuli).


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.