VII-2 - Sciences du vivant, sens de la vie (2002)

Revue des Facultés de Théologie et de Philosophie

Résumés des articles du second volume du 7ème tome de la revue Théophilyon

Jean-Marie Exbrayat - Biology and the Meaning of Life

Current scientific data show the materiality of life and living organisms with ever increasing precision. Originally, living organisms are descended from the mineral world. The products of a slow evolution that started around 3.8 billion years ago, living beings which peak with the human species are the centre of particularly complex physico-chemical reactions and dependent on the expression of genes, which enable them to grow and proliferate. These beings also have weaknesses: they are subjected to suffering and death. Materiality, evolution, physico-chemistry, suffering and death are the key elements that give a meaning to life. Many scientists have been wondering about the meaning to give to life. The materiality of the living often leads to materialistic theses for which it ultimately represents just a long series of chemical reactions. And yet, even if this very real materiality must be taken into account, it is possible to perceive a higher sign in life, which goes beyond the sole work of biologists and scientific minds. Giving a meaning to the living does not fall within the province of biology but within that of other forms of thinking brought by philosophy or religion.

Fabienne Daull - Power over the life of human beings or biotechnologies as a place for ethical questioning

Nowadays, biological and medical sciences and biotechnologies bestow a power of understanding but also of action on the development and life of human beings (of which we give a brief overview) which raises particularly crucial ethical problems. And yet the approaches adopted in recently published ethical reports relativize their importance in relation to the scientific and therapeutic benefits of such research. What reference points should be used to distinguish their meaning and limits, when claiming to have respect for the embryo, life, "human nature"... goes hand in hand with practices that directly affect them? How can we become aware that to live with humaneness, we must renounce our desire to be all-powerful as regards the life of human beings, without renouncing the fight against evil and suffering? Such is the challenge raised by biotechnologies, which philosophers and theologians are meant to meet.

Denis Vasse - Ethics of The Living

Knowledge of the living cannot be reduced to what the senses know or the intelligibility of things. This knowledge takes heed of Life that reveals itself within it. It is a knowledge of the Other in it, what is given in the presence experienced - tested - , not in the objectivizing knowledge of what is known - proved. If the living is characterized by taking part in the present of Life, its ethics consists in acting on the basis of acknowledging the transformation of the suffering linked to desire into the joy of meeting. Joy is the sign of Life being accomplished in the act of a presence - a gift - which goes beyond all the representations that man may have of himself.

Paul Moreau - The idea of Social Life

Isn't the implementation of human rights, which is desired for settling the whole spectrum of social issues, a sign of society's inability to be generally regulated by morals? This inability can thus appear, including within the city, as the result of a process which has discredited the idea of social life to the benefit of the sole individual. In order to offer men both convenient reference points and lasting security, one might be tempted to rethink society as a community or, even better, as a social body. In such a case, however, it is to be feared that the very idea of mankind may be sacrificed together with the individual. Citizens should therefore acknowledge and take charge, particularly in the city, of a public world that can integrate the diversity of life forms as well as of institutions.

Pierre Gire - For a Metaphysics of Human Life

Within an epistemological option of a metaphysical nature, the objective is to think the essence of human life. At a distance from the otherness of both animal life and divine life, man experiences his life within the limits of his culture. At the core of the transcendental dimensions of his own life, the subject experiences his infinite metaphysical depth, which reveals itself as a fundamental dialectic of transcendence and immanence (the act of being, affected by negativity). In fact, it is within the person that the metaphysical essence of human life is truly offered while acknowledging itself. Thought out in this way, this assertion of the person inaugurates the world of ethic life.

Olivier Perru - Animal Life and Human Life: what differences?

A philosophical treatment of the issue: "Animal life and human life: what differences?" implies beforehand a clear-sighted epistemological view of possible approaches. This is a prerequisite for avoiding either a naturalization of human life or, on the contrary, a dualism isolating spiritual life from its biological foundations. The philosopher's approach to the problem of life is a combination of amazement and sheer humility. Rather than defending "what is peculiar to man", the idea is to go as far as possible in the ever fresh discovery of a singular living being, man. This work therefore tries to lead on to the conditions for developing a philosophy of the living and the ways forward into an in-depth exploration of the human difference.

Michel Demaison - Living a quest for truth

Theological work about what is called human life draws first and foremost on the resources provided by the Scriptures: to shed light on the polysemy of a notion with extremely ambiguous uses and to establish connections with the Lord of the living, creator and saviour, who is ultimately revealed in Christ. On this basis, an anthropological reflection is also required when wanting to take part in the debates open by biosciences. Three main lines are developed to structure what is specifically human living: procreation, the bodily condition, the notion of person. Without excluding other approaches, they enable Catholic theology to be consistent in its considerations on a society subject to the practical effects of mastering the living and under the influence of the quest for the meaning of life. What assets does Christianity still have at its disposal to continue to be heard? In this huge work area opening up for a long time, a few waiting blocks are proposed, as mere signs of a life whose truth is always to be received.