The definition of Extraterrestrial Life

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Philosophy and problems of the definition of Extraterrestrial Life

Jean Schneider
When we try to search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence, we have to follow some guidelines.
The first step is to clarify what is to be meant by “Life” and “intelligence”, i.e. an attempt to define these words.
The word “definition” refers to two different situations.
First, it means an arbitrary convention.
On the other hand it also often designates an attempt to clarify the content of a pre-existing word for which we have some spontaneous preconceptions, whatever their grounds, and to catch an (illusory) “essence” of what is defined.
It is then made use of pre-existing plain language words which carry an a priori pre-scientific content likely to introduce some confusion in the reader’s mind.
The complexity of the problem will be analyzed and we will show that some philosophical prejudice is unavoidable.
There are two types of philosophy: “Natural Philosophy”, seeking for some essence of things, and “Critical (or analytical) Philosophy”, devoted to the analysis of the procedures by which we claim to construct a reality.
An extension of Critical Philosophy, Epistemo-Analysis (i.e. the Psycho-Analysis of concepts) is presented and applied to the defintion of Life and to Astrobiology.

On Earth, Life is perceived under two aspects: organic life and psychical life.
Organic life, subject of Biology, is shared by all livings, from bacteria to humans.
Psychical life is the attribute of some animals and humans.
In the generally shared common view, psychical life culminates in human «intelligence» and there is no rupture, no fundamental gap between human intelligence and animal psychology.
Intelligence is then just viewed as a skill, an ability to react to situations and the environment.
In the context of Astrobiology, the question naturally arises whether these approaches are adapted to exo-life.
Here we treat these questions with a philosophical approach.
It must be pointed out that there are two types of Philosophy of Knowledge: « Natural » Philosophy and Critical Philosophy.
Hereafter we first clarify some differences between these two conceptions of Philosophy. We then explain why critical Philosophy is more efficient than Natural Philosophy.
We finally make an analysis, based on critical Philosophy and its extension called « Epistemo-Analysis », to try to define organic and intelligent exo-life. For the latter we will point out its basic difficulty.
We know that there is no form of evolved Life elsewhere in the Solar System.
But there is plenty of room for evolved life on extrasolar planets.
We therefore deal here only with life on these exoplanets.
To conclude this introduction, we underline that our discussion is inspired by its pragmatic consequences: what actions to take to search for organic and psychical exo-Life?
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Written by physicsgg

December 3, 2011 at 8:27 pm

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    December 4, 2011 at 12:16 am

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    June 13, 2013 at 5:16 pm

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