The Essence of Life
A Scientific Philosophical Perspective
Life is a most wonderful natural phenomenon.
The question of the essence of life is fascinating and has immense importance.
Since we ourselves are rooted in the array of life and constitute an inseparable part of it, understanding the essence of life is a key to understanding our own fundamental nature.
“It should not be thought strange if I dare to say that we will understand the formation of all the heavenly bodies, the cause of their motion, in short, the origin of the whole present constitution of the universe sooner than the creation of a single plant or caterpillar becomes clearly and completely known on mechanical grounds.” Immanuel Kant, 1775
Since Kant, the most well-known and influential philosopher, made this claim, there have been tremendous developments in science, which have led to extended knowledge and significant understanding of the phenomena of life.
However, Kant’s claim is still, in principle, relevant.
Life is a highly complex phenomenon and most difficult to elucidate, compared to the non-living phenomena we know. And even today, some of the most essential, typical characteristics of life, such as the development of the individual organism and consciousness, are yet to be clarified.
Most life processes, including reproduction and hereditary, and their underlying physicochemical mechanisms, such as protein synthesis and DNA replication, are indeed well known in their details. But this knowledge cannot explain clearly and fully the development of the living organisms with all their complex features.
What is life? How is it possible to explain the nature of life? Can it be explained at all?
And what conclusions can be drawn from the unique characteristics of life about our own lives?
The search for the answers to these questions is a fascinating quest shared by thinkers and researches, philosophers and scientists, throughout the ages; a conceptual quest at the interface between philosophy and science.