Team:Paris Saclay/Ethics/Sociological Cultural Definition Living Being


Sociological and Cultural Definition of Living-Being

Life is a natural phenomenon observed for now only on Earth. What we call life is characterized by living beings. All these living beings are able to interact, reproduce, and live in their environment and formed biosphere. We oppose to life the notion of death or inert, inorganic matter. According to this point of view, life becomes the time between birth and death containing active and passive events (i.e. interactions or random events).

When we try to define what life is in a socio-cultural point of view, talking about religion is required. Every single religion has its own definition that differs from others’ by a certain number of criteria. However, finding an exact definition of what life is for every religion reveals to be very challenging. Life is a complex notion that even religion is unable to define with easy concept. We think that we do not control enough these concept to try to expose and explain this definition here. However, we underlined the fact that between different religions the definition differs and even within a religion, concepts of life vary with the time. It shows that life is a very complex notion which cannot have a unique and compartmentalized definition.

The sociological point of view usually follows traditions and culture of a country. Thus, religions take a huge place in society and they usually direct what a people thinks. However, in countries where religions impact less on population’s thought, the definition of living beings can differ from the one proposed by religion.

For everyone a living being is an entity that interacts with its environment and its peers. However, opinions differ on what the beginning of the life is. Can we control life? What is the meaning of life? And also, what are limits of living beings? Indeed, big issues that appear nowadays such as euthanasia, abortion, frozen embryos, cyborgs reveal that our definition of life is not clear and not fully shared. For some people, life does not begin when fertilization and formation of the embryo occurs and but later, when the embryo is formed. Consequently, they do not consider early embryos as living beings. It is the same for the question of euthanasia. Some people believe that if you are not conscious any more, but your body is still alive, you do not belong to living beings any more as you cannot communicate with your environment. Consequently, having a common definition of early life and late life is challenging. Finally, concerns about what defines living being is now a huge challenge with the progress in robotics and synthetic biology. Indeed, one may humanize the “machine” whereas the others may “mechanize” a living organism. It completely blurs the definition of what society considers as living.

To go further on what society think, we can examine the political sphere and especially the law. Indeed, law sometimes reveals the people’s thought and marks the progress of the reflection. For example in Belgium, euthanasia is now allowed whereas in France it is still prohibited. This difference pushes the French government and society to question and judge if they want to adopt this practice.

To conclude, this study allowed us to notice that in religion and even in the society the notion of life and living-being is not yet well-known. Complex concepts to explain what is living being in religion reveals that this notion is not easy to define. Furthermore, we noticed some variations about the principle of life between religion and within religion itself, revealing the ambiguity of this definition. Finally, we analysed current issues raised in our society to understand the different point-of-view. It underlines the same complexity in society to agree in one definition.