Leibniz and the Polyp, or the Metaphysical Puzzle of Life
Leibniz and the Polyp, or the Metaphysical Puzzle of Life In this paper, I propose to explore the link between experience and reason in the problem of the apprehension of life. My general claim is that philosophical issues are necessarily involved in a theory of living organisms, since identifying a certain entity as a living being is to go beyond its manifestations. In part I, I argue that the empirical approach of the natural sciences cannot fully account for the peculiarity of life, showing
... y of life, showing that the different criteria used to distinguish the living from the non-living, as those proposed in biology, may turn out to be inadequate. In the second part, I elaborate on these issues by focusing on the Leibnizian theory of living beings. In particular, I will emphasize how Leibniz's theory exemplifies the problematic relationship between the observable properties of organized matter and the inner (or metaphysical) properties of the living as such. Finally, I will propose to consider the discovery of the polyp in the eighteenth century as a case of particular interest and a challenge to the classical conceptions of the living, insofar as it raises the crucial questions of unity and individuality, which are of utmost importance with regard to the ontological status of life.