Friday, July 14, 2017

Life and non-life

Assume a particle-based fundamental physics. Then the non-living things in the universe outnumber the living by many orders of magnitude. But here is a striking fact given a restricted compositionality like van Inwagen’s, Toner’s or mine on which all there are is in the universe are particles and organisms: the number of kinds of living things outnumbers the number of kinds of non-living things by several orders of magnitude. The number of kinds of particles is of the order of 100, but there are millions of biological species (they may not all correspond to metaphysical species, of course).

Counting by individuals, living things are exceptional. But counting by kinds, physical things are exceptional. Only a tiny portion of the universe is occupied by life. But on the other hand, only a tiny portion of the space of kinds of entities is occupied by non-life.

I am not sure what to make of these observations. Maybe it is gives some credence to an Aristotelian rather than Humean way of seeing the world by putting the the kinds of features as teleology that are found in living things at the center of metaphysics.

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