The creation of synthetic life forms raises the question of what we mean when we say that a synthetic cell is “alive.” This paper analyzes the problem of aliveness both as an epistemological question (how can we know?) and as a phenomenological question (how can we perceive?). It introduces basic concepts that can be used in a phenomenological analysis of the “givenness” of life and argues that aliveness can only be seen with reference to the experiences of the observer as him/herself living. Life is therefore inherently ambiguous. When perceiving other life forms, we are aware of our own life. In order to develop a concept of the “other life” of a synthetic bacterium, we need to be aware of projecting perceptual evidence of our own life onto that of other species. The concept of “other life” can address a very basic layer: seeing another life form’s being-in-the-world as (1) a center of its own spontaneity, (2) a particular way of being in time that can be described as duration, and (3) as a system of processes that contain their own sense as practices.
——. 2006. “Poiesis and praxis―two ways of describing development” in Neumann-HeldEva M. and Rehmann-SutterChristoph (eds) Genes in Development. Re-reading the Molecular Paradigm. Durham: Duke University Press pp. 313–334.
——. 2009. “Lebewesen als Sphären der Aktivität. Thesen zur Interpretation der molekularen Genetik in einer praxisorientierten Naturphilosophie” in KummerChristian (Hg.) Was ist Naturphilosophie und was kann sie leisten?Freiburg/München: Alber pp. 127–150.
——. 2003b. “Moraphilosophische Fragen zum ‘Embryo’: Am Anfang ist die Beziehung” in: RudolfRehnSchüesChristina and WeinreichFrank (eds) Der Traum vom besseren Menschen. Zum Verhältnis von praktischer Philosophie und Biotechnologie. Frankfurt a.M.: Lang 2003 pp. 33–53.