Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of by Stefan Helmreich, Sophia Roosth, Michele Friedner

By Stefan Helmreich, Sophia Roosth, Michele Friedner

What's existence? what's water? what's sound? In Sounding the boundaries of Life, anthropologist Stefan Helmreich investigates how modern scientists—biologists, oceanographers, and audio engineers—are redefining those an important strategies. existence, water, and sound are phenomena instantly empirical and summary, fabric and formal, clinical and social. within the age of man-made biology, emerging sea degrees, and new applied sciences of listening, those phenomena stretch towards their conceptual snapping issues, breaching the limits among the normal, cultural, and virtual.

Through examinations of the computational existence sciences, marine biology, astrobiology, acoustics, and extra, Helmreich follows scientists to the bounds of those different types. alongside the best way, he deals severe money owed of such other-than-human entities as electronic lifestyles types, microbes, coral reefs, whales, seawater, extraterrestrials, tsunamis, seashells, and bionic cochlea. He develops a brand new concept of "sounding"—as investigating, fathoming, listening—to describe the shape of inquiry acceptable for monitoring meanings and practices of the organic, aquatic, and sonic in a time of worldwide switch and weather crisis.

Sounding the boundaries of Life exhibits that existence, water, and sound now not suggest what they as soon as did, and that what count number as their crucial natures are lower than dynamic revision.

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48 What kind of limit might be detected here? 49 Humans might be imagined as aerophiles, “air-­ lovers”: an extreme from the vantage point of anaerobes. The word “extreme” functions as a relativist, rather than totalizing, operator. What this accomplishes is attention to environment; the ends of this kind of biology are about ecological context—­and about displacing humans as the only ends of evolution. Such a view means to awaken humans to their superfluity to earthly life writ large and therefore to their responsibility for the effects of their anthropocentrism.

50 In these mentions, “life form” almost always is embedded in an account of descent with modification. 51 Prior to the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, allied terms circulated during Victorian arguments over the nature of geological and biological change, in which participants debated the merits of uniformitarianism, catastrophism, and transformism. 53 The capaciousness of “forms of life” served especially well those arguing for the possible limitless plenitude of living things and those speculating on processes that generated biological forms and their transmutations.

31 Lebensform does double duty here: it refers to amphibianness as a general category, but also points toward the relation of an organism to its environment. That relation—­ of habit, habitation, and medium to the poiesis of the organism—­becomes key to refinements of Lebensform, in which form is not simply a manifestation of an aesthetic impulse but takes shape with respect to material circumstances. The central figure here is the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Alexander von Humboldt was influenced by the scholarship of his older brother, Wilhelm, a philosopher close to Goethe and Schiller.

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