Life – one of the most fundamental aspects of our existence, is a concept that has puzzled philosophers for centuries. The question “what is life?”

has been debated by numerous philosophers and thinkers throughout history. In this article, we will explore the various philosophical definitions of life.

What is Philosophy?

Before we dive into the different ideas about what life means in philosophy, let’s first define what philosophy is. Philosophy is a discipline that uses logical reasoning and critical thinking to answer fundamental questions about reality, existence, knowledge, ethics, and more.

The Concept of Life

In philosophy, the concept of life is not limited to biological organisms. Instead, philosophers have attempted to define life in a more abstract sense – as something that distinguishes living things from non-living things.

Biological Definition of Life

One way to define life in philosophy is through a biological lens. Biologically speaking, life refers to the state of being alive or having an active metabolism. This definition includes all living organisms on Earth.

Philosophical Definitions of Life

However, many philosophers argue that there are other aspects of life that are not captured by this purely biological definition. For instance, some thinkers believe that consciousness or self-awareness is a defining characteristic of life.

The Aristotelian Perspective

One famous philosopher who had his own definition of life was Aristotle. He believed that living things possess souls – not in a religious sense but rather as an animating principle. According to him, plants have vegetative souls; animals have sensitive souls while humans have rational souls.

The Existentialist Perspective

Existentialism also offers its own take on the definition of life. According to this school of thought, life cannot be defined by any objective criteria since it differs from person to person based on their subjective experiences. In essence, it is up to each individual to create their own meaning and purpose in life.

The Taoist Perspective

Taoism, an ancient Chinese philosophy, defines life as a balance between two opposing forces – yin and yang. Yin represents the passive, dark, and feminine aspects of life while yang represents the active, light, and masculine aspects of life. According to Taoism, living in harmony with these opposing forces is the key to a fulfilling life.


In conclusion, there are various philosophical definitions of what life means. While some philosophers define it biologically as a state of being alive or having an active metabolism, others argue that it includes other aspects such as consciousness or self-awareness. Ultimately, the definition of life depends on one’s perspective and beliefs.