What is Life? A Genealogy of Autopoiesis, Cybernetics and Bio-politics

Sophie Publig
Peter Weibel-Research Institute for Digital Cultures, Peter Weibel-Research Institute for Digital Cultures
2021W, scientific seminar (SEW), 4.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S03997

Description

In this course, we will reevaluate and rephrase philosophical and scientific approaches from the 20th century to the burning question: what is life? Across all disciplines, giving an answer to the mysterious way of life does not only serve as an approximation to "truth", but to power. Defining life is a decision of inclusion and exclusion of various creatures and thus a highly political act. For example, many people deny rocks the possibility of living, but in recent years, rivers like the Whanganui have obtained the status of a legal person. In the same vein, although belonging to the very same species, colonialists treated indigenous people as "savages" or belonging to the natural world. Last but not least, transhumanist phantasies of a humanoid artificial intelligence finally bringing an end to humanity haunt the narratives of science fiction movies. With this in mind, we will ask: who defined life for whom and for what?
With our contemporary lense of extinction, climate change, artificial life & intelligence, we desperately need new ways of thinking life that helps us out of the predicament of anthropocentrism and waning natural resources. We will look at definitions of life by Charles Darwin, Erwin Schrödinger, Alfred North Whitehead, Spinoza, Lynn Margulis, Donna Haraway and Rosi Braidotti as well as various indigenous cosmologies. 

Examination Modalities

Participants are expected to actively attend the course and prepare readings each week. In order to receive a grade, participants are expected to submit short writing exercises. More information will be given in the first lecture.

Key Words

posthumanism, philosophy, life

Dates

12 October 2021, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
19 October 2021, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
09 November 2021, 15:30–17:00 FLUX 1
16 November 2021, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
23 November 2021, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
30 November 2021, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
07 December 2021, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
14 December 2021, 15:30–17:00 FLUX 1
11 January 2022, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 3
18 January 2022, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34
25 January 2022, 15:30–17:00 Seminar Room 34

Course Enrolment

From 07 September 2021, 00:00 to 30 September 2021, 23:59
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

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