1st Edition

Physis, Biopower, and Biothermodynamics The Fire of Life

By Enrique Leff Copyright 2024

    Building upon the idea that our current "environmental question" arises from the history of metaphysics—which privileged thought about Being (or ontology) over the conditions of life—this book reinterprets Heraclitus’s notion of physis as the fundamental, emergent potency of life, as the category to-be-thought by thinkers. In so doing, it deconstructs the interpretation offered by Heidegger and so stresses the struggle between the creative force of life and its subjection to the human Logos or "meaning". Physis, understood as the pre-ontological potentiality of life itself, thus becomes the cornerstone of a materialist philosophy of life.

    Following engagements with the work of Nietzsche, Foucault, and Janicaud to explore the significance of human intervention into the realm of life via the "will to power", "biopower" and the "power of rationality" respectively, the author explores twentieth-century rearticulations of the concept of physis through a range of developments in biothermodynamics, thus grounding a new philosophy of life and a new bioeconomics in a revisited biothermodynamics centered on the concept of negentropy.

    An extensive engagement with the history and development of thought about the generative force of life on Earth, Physis, Biopower, Biothermodynamics, and Bioeconomics: The Fire of Life will appeal to scholars of philosophy, social theory, and political theory with interests in environmental thought, political ecology, and questions of sustainability.

    1 Heraclitus and the Fire of Life


    Φύσις and the First Beginning of Western Thinking

    Heraclitus’s Doctrine of Logos: Cosmic Λόγος and Human λόγος

    Λόγος (the Homologizable One) and λόγος-σοφόν (the Thinkable-Knowable)


    2 The Power of Reason and the Strife for Life

    Friedrich Nietzsche: The Being of Life, The Will to Power and the Eternal Recurrence

    Michel Foucault: Biopower and the Strategies of Power-in-Knowledge of Life

    Dominique Janicaud: The Truth of Being and the Power of the Rational


    3 Biothermodynamics and the Question Concerning Life

    The “to be thought of Φύσις” and the “ever emergent Life”

    Vladimir Vernadsky: The Biosphere

    Sadi Carnot and Rudolpf Clausius: The Classical Theory of the Entropy Law

    Ludwig Boltzmann and James Maxwell: Entropy as Disorder and Probability in Statistical Mechanics

    Alfred Lotka: The Entropic Law of Maximum Power

    Erwin Schrödinger: Life as Negative Entropy

    Ilya Prigogine: "Order Out of Chaos": the Dissipative Processes of Far-From-Equilibrium Structures

    Arthur Peacocke: The Physico-Chemistry of Biological Organization

    Jeffrey Wicken: A Thermodynamic Extension of the Darwinian Program

    Steward Kauffman: The Reinvention of Φύσις and the Negentropic Creativity of Life

    Paradoxes, Aporias, Dilemmas, and Theoretical Strategies of Life Thermodynamics: Delusions of Entropy in the Entrails of Life


    4 Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen’s Bioeconomics: The Economic Process and the Entropic Death of the Planet

    The Law of Entropy and Economic Value

    Entropy, Bioeconomics, and Life Thermodynamics

    Entropy and Negentropy in the Metabolism of Ecosystems and the Economic Process

    The Τέψνη of a Global Φύσις: A Bioeconomic Paradigm of Negentropic Productivity

    Negentropy, Sustainability, and Culture

    Time and Entropy. Building a Sustainable Future



    Enrique Leff is Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Social Research and the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Emeritus Researcher at the National Council of Humanities, Science, and Technology (CONAHCyT), Mexico. He was the former coordinator of the Environmental Training Network for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations Environment Program. He is the author of Political Ecology: Deconstructing Capital and Territorializing Life (2021) and Green Production: Towards an Environmental Rationality (1995).