What we talk about when we talk about "life"


In the first seminar of the year, we will be starting with a big question: what do we mean when we talk about life? Despite the ease with which we ordinarily use the word “life”, it is anything but self-evident. To ask this question is to challenge the unspoken assumptions we bring to discussions of life in the sciences, humanities, and in everyday speech– contexts in which “life” can take on dramatically different meanings. Questioning the ways in which we talk about life and frame definitions and descriptions of things (both animate and inanimate) can help reveal the sorts of biases and (often contradictory) values that drive discourses of “life” in all areas of contemporary society.

The seminar will be led by Sam Gormley, Dr. Kitty Wheater, and Nikolaas Deketelaere, who will guide us through a selection of excerpts from film, literature, and philosophy and introduce us to some various approaches to the idea of 'life' and 'the living'. The second part will be dedicated to a broader discussion of the issues raised in these extracts. The discussion is designed to facilitate conversation and debate across disciplinary divides– so please bring your own thoughts, queries, and knowledge to the seminar’s theme, using the excerpts as a jumping-off point!


Tea and coffee will be provided.

Events are free to attend and open to all.

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Life Itself in Theory and Practice

Contact email: life.itself@torch.ox.ac.uk

Audience: Open to all