Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

From Buzz to Burst—Critical Remarks on the Term ‘Life’ and Its Ethical Implications in Synthetic Biology


Funk, Michael; Steizinger, Johannes; Falkner, Daniel; Eichinger, Tobias (2019). From Buzz to Burst—Critical Remarks on the Term ‘Life’ and Its Ethical Implications in Synthetic Biology. Nanoethics, 13(3):173-198.

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the use of the term ‘life’ in the debates within and about synthetic biology. We review different positions within these debates, focusing on the historical background, the constructive epistemology of laboratory research and the pros and cons of metaphorical speech. We argue that ‘life’ is used as buzzword, as folk concept, and as theoretical concept in inhomogeneous ways. Extending beyond the review of the significant literature, we also argue that ‘life’ can be understood as a Burstword in two concrete senses. Firstly, terms such as life easily turn into fuzzy, foggy and buzzy clouds of nonsense, if their use is not appropriately reflected. In these cases, the semantic orientation is detonated. This is the Burstword I characteristic of the concept of ‘life’ that we reveal for its unclear terminological use. Secondly, and in contrast to Burstword I, we show that the concept of ‘life’ can be used in a methodologically controlled way. We call this kind of use Burstword II. Here the concept of ‘life’ fulfils the function of expanding an inadequately narrow disciplinary or conceptual focus in different discursive contexts. In this second sense, ‘life’ receives an important operational function, for instance as a transdisciplinary research principle. It turns out that the innovative function and paradigm-changing power of metaphorical speech belong here as well. Finally, we illustrate three ethically relevant examples that show how ‘life’ can be applied as Burstword II in the context of synthetic biology.

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the use of the term ‘life’ in the debates within and about synthetic biology. We review different positions within these debates, focusing on the historical background, the constructive epistemology of laboratory research and the pros and cons of metaphorical speech. We argue that ‘life’ is used as buzzword, as folk concept, and as theoretical concept in inhomogeneous ways. Extending beyond the review of the significant literature, we also argue that ‘life’ can be understood as a Burstword in two concrete senses. Firstly, terms such as life easily turn into fuzzy, foggy and buzzy clouds of nonsense, if their use is not appropriately reflected. In these cases, the semantic orientation is detonated. This is the Burstword I characteristic of the concept of ‘life’ that we reveal for its unclear terminological use. Secondly, and in contrast to Burstword I, we show that the concept of ‘life’ can be used in a methodologically controlled way. We call this kind of use Burstword II. Here the concept of ‘life’ fulfils the function of expanding an inadequately narrow disciplinary or conceptual focus in different discursive contexts. In this second sense, ‘life’ receives an important operational function, for instance as a transdisciplinary research principle. It turns out that the innovative function and paradigm-changing power of metaphorical speech belong here as well. Finally, we illustrate three ethically relevant examples that show how ‘life’ can be applied as Burstword II in the context of synthetic biology.

Statistics

Citations

Altmetrics

Downloads

2 downloads since deposited on 10 Feb 2021
2 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Social Sciences & Humanities > History and Philosophy of Science
Social Sciences & Humanities > Management of Technology and Innovation
Uncontrolled Keywords:Management of Technology and Innovation, Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science, Social Sciences (miscellaneous), Sociology and Political Science
Language:English
Date:1 December 2019
Deposited On:10 Feb 2021 13:06
Last Modified:11 Feb 2021 21:00
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1871-4757
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11569-019-00361-4

Download

Hybrid Open Access

Download PDF  'From Buzz to Burst—Critical Remarks on the Term ‘Life’ and Its Ethical Implications in Synthetic Biology'.
Preview
Content: Published Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 670kB
View at publisher
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)