Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology
Properties of Life
Toward a Theory of Organismic Biology
326 pp., 6 x 9 in, 40 b&w illus.
- Published: September 19, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A coherent and comprehensive theory of life that synthesizes the specific properties of living organisms.
Despite continued advances, science has until now struggled to describe the specific properties that define a living being. By synthesizing several aspects of organismic biology and contemporary science, Properties of Life by Bernd Rosslenbroich generates a coherent concept of the singular quality of being alive—a concept that provides a crucial foundation for scientists, farmers, and medical practitioners and helps explain how we all interact with the world around us and within ourselves.
Is an organism an aggregate of parts or an integrated system with agency? Is it a passive stimulus-response machine or a being equipped with subjectivity and consciousness? Rosslenbroich argues that the way people in different fields understand life determines their assumptions about organic function and behavior. In medicine, this extends to the human organism, which influences prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Drawing attention to a long-standing but underappreciated line of thought in organismic biology, Rosslenbroich's original idea emphasizes the autonomy of living processes, their network characteristics, and their self-determined organization in time and structure.
A timely and revelatory book, Properties of Life formulates an integrated, unified theory that remains flexible enough to accommodate future developments and resilient enough to withstand the challenges of different theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds.