A Keyword Entry
This chapter examines how natural philosophers and scientists in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries employed the term “life form.” It asks how life came to have a form, where the term “life form” came from, and what “life form” has come to mean in the contemporary moment, when it is possible to use the term to refer to as-yet-conjectural manifestations that may redefine the very referent of life itself. To map the historical transformation of the term “life form,” the chapter draws on Raymond Williams's 1976 Keywords, in which Williams offered histories of keywords in social theory, detailing the shifting, contested meanings of such terms as “culture,” “nature,” and “ideology.” Using this approach, the chapter identifies a move from deductive reasoning to inductive reasoning to abductive reasoning.
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