Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
C R Biol. 2015 Aug-Sep;338(8-9):617-26. doi: 10.1016/j.crvi.2015.06.002. Epub 2015 Jul 4.

The metaphysical lessons of synthetic biology and neuroscience.

Author information

  • 1IEH2 (Institut Éthique Histoire humanités), université de Genève, 1, rue Michel-Servet, 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland. Electronic address:


In this paper, I examine some important metaphysical lessons that are often presented as derived from two new scientific disciplines: synthetic biology and neuroscience. I analyse four of them: the nature of life, the existence of a soul (the mind-body problem), personhood, and free will. Many caveats are in order, and each 'advance' or each case should be assessed for itself. I conclude that a main lesson can nevertheless be learned: in conjunction with modern science, neuroscience and synthetic biology allow us to enrich old metaphysical debates, to deepen and even renew them. In particular, it becomes less and less plausible to consider life, mind, person, and agency as non-natural or non-physical entities.


Determinism; Déterminisme; Free will; Mind-body problem; Moral status; Nature du vivant; Nature of life; Personhood; Personnalité; Problème corps-esprit; Statut moral; Volonté libre

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center