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The term biofact consists of a combination of the words bios (Greek: life) and artefact and describes a biotic artifact.


The term was first introduced into the philosophical discussion in 2001 by the philosopher and biologist Nicole C. Karafyllis in order to make it clear that living beings can also be artificial or technical to a high degree through methods of agricultural and biotechnology, such as genetic engineering or cloning . In 2003 the book Biofakte was published and is often referred to as a reference for the introduction.

The primary aim of the introduction of the term was not to subsume biotechnological products unquestionably under nature and to equate nature with life . Biofacts show the traces of culture and technology . Philosophically, the term questions whether the phenomenon of growth can be seen as a clear difference between nature and technology and art. This holds true for both historical and contemporary considerations about nature.

For the philosophy of technology , the question arises whether, firstly, biotechnology and agricultural technology should not be an integral part of the reflection on technology philosophy (in addition to the established focus on the machine and the artifact), and secondly, whether established technology terms that are based on artificiality to be modified. Karafyllis sees the chance to integrate not only the construction as a classical way of producing artifacts, but also provocation as a method of producing biofacts into a theory of the technical sciences. For natural philosophy the question is raised whether nature is self-evident in every case. The organic philosophy is challenged to their own Technomorphien in the specification and design of living things to make and from that of the concept of the living organism to distinguish. For the philosophy of science and the sociology of knowledge , there is a new delimitation to the term 'thing' as a concretum and the problem of the exclusivity of knowledge (see expert ) around a technical nature that appears to be self-evident beyond the laboratory. Precisely through the concept of appearance and the self, there are close links to phenomenology , anthropology and ontology . Jürgen Habermas also drew attention to the anthropological effects of leveling the difference in 2001 .

Artifacts are artificial, man-made objects that were not found in nature and, unlike biofacts, are dead. As a technology, the constructed objects have so far been part of the realm of objects, while living beings belonged to the realm of nature . Biofacts mark an ontological intermediate area. Like the artifacts, they are made for use. Biofacts are accordingly biotic artifacts, i.e. i.e., they are alive and show their character as hybrids . Nevertheless, they differ from hybrids in ontical terms in that they can no longer be broken down or differentiated into individual parts.

The term also enables a critical examination of the research field of technoscience , in which a fusion of the limits of knowledge and technical making is postulated. The term was also received in the art movement of BioArt , but often without using the critical potential.

Living beings therefore also achieve artificiality on the theoretical level when they are placed as an organism in the context of scientific reconstruction of developments (e.g. in archeology , in the theory of evolution ) or in the fine arts. The biofact concept also plays a role in the ethical debate on synthetic biology.

Concept history

According to Nicole C. Karafyllis, the first proven mention of the term biofact , but with a different argumentative thrust, can be found in the Viennese taxidermist and protozoologist Bruno M. Klein, in his article “Biofakt und Arteffekt”, printed in 1943/1944 in the microscope journal Mikrokosmos . Klein differentiates between dead structures in still living organisms, such as B. Diatom shells, preparation artifacts and relics of organisms after their death. For Klein, the distinction between living and dead was the guiding principle, not that of technology / nature or made / become. This means that his term is more closely related to the occasional use of words in archeology (see below, 'Ambiguities'). For Klein, biofacts are those that shape themselves out of their living substance and can generate artifacts to replace something “missing” (such as a protective cover). In an essay by Klein from 1943, the above mentioned Article already announced (with an earlier year of publication 1942/43), so that one can assume that Klein's biofact concept will emerge in 1942.


A biofact should not be confused 1.) with a fossil , a remnant from (biological) geological history , 2.) with an artifact that was produced by non-human living beings (e.g. the beaver's dam), 3. ) with an archaeological indicator that is characterized by potential vitality (e.g. old mushroom spores or leftover food in graves), 4. with the concept of the zombie , who ekes out a temporary existence as the undead .


Primary literature

  • Nicole C. Karafyllis (Ed.): Biofacts - attempt on humans between artifacts and living beings. mentis, Paderborn 2003. See in particular the introduction Das Wesen der Biofakte , pp. 11–27.
  • Nicole C. Karafyllis: Keyword: Biofakt , in: Information Philosophy 2004.
  • Nicole C. Karafyllis: Biofacts - Basics, Problems, Perspectives. In considering knowledge ethics. Vol. 17. Issue 4, 2006, pp. 547-558.
  • Nicole C. Karafyllis: Growth of Biofacts: the real thing or metaphor? In: R. Heil, A. Kaminski, M. Stippack, A. Unger and M. Ziegler (Eds.): Tensions and Convergences. Technological and Aesthetic (Trans) Formations of Society. Bielefeld: transcript 2007, pp. 141–152.
  • Nicole C. Karafyllis: Endogenous Design of Biofacts. Tissues and Networks in Bio Art and Life Science. In: Jens Hauser (ed.): Sk-interfaces. Exploding borders - creating membranes in art, technology and society. University of Liverpool Press, Liverpool 2008, pp. 42-58.
  • Karafyllis, NC: Artifact - Living Things - Biofact. Philosophical Aspects of Living Buildings . In: G. de Bruyn et al. (Ed.): Living buildings - trainable structures . Series of publications on culture and technology, vol. 16. Münster, New York a. a. 2009: LIT, 97-111.
  • Karafyllis, NC Biofacts as a new category in computer science? In: Raimund Jakob, Lothar Phillips, Erich Schweighofer, Czaba Varga (eds.): On the way to the idea of ​​justice. Commemorative book for Ilmar Tammelo . Münster u. a .: LIT. Pp. 249-262.
  • Karafyllis, NC: Provocation as a method of biotechnical evolution , in: Volker Gerhardt, Klaus Lucas and Günter Stock (eds.): Evolution. Theory, forms and consequences of a paradigm in nature, technology and culture . Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2011
  • Zachmann, Karin and NC Karafyllis (eds.): Plant biofacts. Stories about the mechanization of agriculture in the 20th century . Special issue of the journal Technikgeschichte 84 (2)., With the introduction of the editors on pp. 95–106.
  • Karafyllis, NC: From Biofact to Cyber ​​Fact. The seed bank as a "world network of plant genetic resources" . In: B. Gill, F. Torma, K. Zachmann (eds.): Living with Biofacts, Baden-Baden: Nomos 2018, pp. 87–128.
  • Karafyllis, NC: Seed Bank and World Collection: On the Third Nature of Agrarian Biofacts . In: Third Nature Vol. 1, No. 1 (2018), edited by Steffen Richter. Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, pp. 25–39.
  • Karafyllis, NC (ed.): Theories of Living Collection. Plants, microbes and animals as biofacts in gene banks . Freiburg: Alber 2018 (series: Life sciences in dialogue, vol. 25).

Secondary literature / reception

  • Suzanne Anker, "Technogenesis", in: B. Andrew Lustig, Baruch A. Brody, Gerald P. McKenny (Eds.): Altering nature: concepts of nature and the natural in biotechnology debates , Springer 2008, pp. 275-322. (in English)
  • Dieter Birnbacher : Naturalness. Berlin, New York 2006. ISBN 978-3-11-018554-6
  • Gerd de Bruyn , artefact and biofact , in: Anke Haarmann, Harald Lemke (ed.): Art and philosophy in the context of urban development , Hamburg: Jovis, 83–92.
  • Gunnar Duttge , Biofacts: Anthropological Foundations and Challenges for the Law. In: Commemorative publication for Ilmar Tammelo , LIT-Verlag, Vienna, 2009, 235–248. ISBN 978-3-643-50034-2
  • Bernhard Gill , Franziska Torma and Karin Zachmann (eds.): Living with biofacts. Language and materiality of plants and food . Baden-Baden: Nomos 2018. ISBN 978-3-8487-4286-8
  • Jan-Christoph Heilinger, Oliver Müller: The cyborg and the question of humans. Critical reflections on "homo arte emendatus et correctus" , Yearbook for Science and Ethics 2007, 21–44. Print ISBN 978-3-11-019246-9
  • Christoph Hubig: The Art of the Possible I. Bielefeld 2006.
  • Bernhard Irrgang : Posthuman Being? , Stuttgart: Steiner 2005.
  • Torsten Meyer and Uta Hassler: " Construction History and the History of Science (PDF; 101 kB):", Proceedings of the Third International Concress of Construction History , Cottbus May 2009 (in English)
  • Leonie Litterst: New life from the laboratory. Life science and ethical aspects of synthetic biology . Wiesbaden: Springer VS 2018., pp. 209–218.
  • Orlan : A Hybrid Body of Artworks, ed. By S. Shepherd and Orlan, Taylor & Francis 2010.
  • Hans Poser (ed.): The challenge of technology. Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2008. ISBN 978-3-631-56909-2
  • Ingeborg Reichle : Art in the Age of Technoscience. Genetic Engineering, Robotics, and Artificial Life in Contemporary Art . Vienna, New York: Springer 2010. (German orig. Under the title Kunst aus dem Labor , Springer 2005). ISBN 978-3-211-78160-9
  • Werner Rammert : Technology, action and social structure (PDF; 242 kB). An introduction to the sociology of technology . TU Berlin 2006.
  • Werner Rammert: Technology - Action - Knowledge: Towards a pragmatic technology and social theory . VS publishing house for social sciences. 2007. ISBN 978-3-531-15260-8
  • Günter Ropohl : Signatures of the technical world , Münster: LIT Verlag 2009. ISBN 978-3-643-10465-6
  • Heiko fabric: mandrake, biofact, cyborg. A body history ABC of the 20th and 21st centuries. In Simone Ehm and Silke Schicktanz (eds.): Body as a measure? Biomedical interventions and their effects on understanding of the body and identity. Stuttgart 2006, pp. 35-50.

Web links

Article “ Post-evolutionary Organisms. Beyond nature? “In the taz of October 5, 2010.

BMBF joint research project " The Language of Biofacts " (2015-2017)

Individual evidence

  1. In: Karafyllis, NC, Biological, Natural, Sustainable. Philosophical Aspects of Access to Nature in the 21st Century , Tübingen: Francke 2001, Chap. 6th
  2. Nicole C. Karafyllis (ed.), Biofakte. Experiment about man between artifact and living beings. Mentis: Paderborn 2003.
  3. See Karafyllis, NC: Provocation as a method of biotechnological evolution. In: Volker Gerhardt, Klaus Lucas and Günter Stock (eds.): Evolution. Theory, forms and consequences of a paradigm in nature, technology and culture. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2011. See also Torsten Meyer and Uta Hassler: Construction History and the History of Science. Cottbus 2009, pdf see under literature.
  4. Cf. Marianne Schark: Living versus Things , De Gruyter 2005.
  5. Jürgen Habermas: The future of human nature , Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2001.
  6. ^ Nicole C. Karafyllis: Hybrids, Biofacts, Living Beings . In: Stephan Schaede, Reiner Anselm, Kristian Köchy (Eds.): Life. Historical-systematic studies on the history of a term. tape 3 . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, p. 309-322 .
  7. Cf. Bruno Latour: Politics of Natur. How to bring the Sciences into Democracy , Harvard University Press 2004.
  8. ^ Leonie Litterst: New life from the laboratory. Life science and ethical aspects of synthetic biology . Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2018, p. 209-217 .
  9. Johannes Achatz: Synthetic Biology and "Natural Morals" . Alber, Freiburg 2013, p. 207-222 .
  10. Bruno Klein: The relationship between the neuroformative system of single cells and an analog intermediate system of multicellular systems (PDF) Upper Austrian State Museum. Retrieved January 28, 2019.