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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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Life forms

Life forms

A Keyword Entry

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter 2 Life forms
Source:
Sounding the Limits of Life
Author(s):

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.003.0002

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.

Keywords:   natural philosophers, scientists, life form, Raymond Williams, social theory, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, abductive reasoning

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