vitalism
The doctrine that there is some feature of living bodies that prevents their nature being entirely explained in physical or chemical terms. This feature may be the presence of a further ‘thing’ (such as a soul), but it may also be simply the emergence of special relations or principles of organization arising from the complexity of the biological organism. The former kind of doctrine envisages Life as a kind of fiery fluid (animal electricity, life force), that needs pouring into an inanimate body in order for it to become alive. Aristotle (De Anima and De Generatione ) is the principal source of a more sophisticated vitalism, holding that the life of an animal consists in its psyche, which provides a principle of explanation determining the morphological development of the organism, by a principle of teleological or final causation . In the 19th century the two great exponents of vitalism were Bergson and the biologist Hans Driesch (1867–1941).
Vitalism has been eclipsed by the advance in molecular genetics, and consequent understanding of the development of organisms in terms drawn from normal science, so the consensus amongst philosophers and biologists is that it offers no explanatory principles that the life sciences need. However, there do remain problems in understanding how different levels of description and explanation of one thing, such as those of psychology and those of biology, or those of biology and those of chemistry, relate to each other. See also supervenience.

Philosophy dictionary. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • vitalism — VITALÍSM s.n. Curent în biologie, opus atât materialismului cât şi spiritualismului, care explică procesele de viaţă prin prezenţa în organismul viu a unui principiu imaterial şi incognoscibil, căruia îi sub subordonate toate procesele fizico… …   Dicționar Român

  • Vitalism — Vi tal*ism, n. (Biol.) The doctrine that all the functions of a living organism are due to an unknown vital principle distinct from all chemical and physical forces. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • vitalism — [vīt′ liz΄əm] n. [Fr vitalisme] the doctrine that the life in living organisms is caused and sustained by a vital force that is distinct from all physical and chemical forces and that life is, in part, self determining and self evolving vitalist… …   English World dictionary

  • Vitalism — This article is about the non mechanist philosophy. For other uses, see vital (disambiguation). Vitalism, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary,[1] is a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct …   Wikipedia

  • vitalism — vitalist, n., adj. vitalistic, adj. vitalistically, adv. /vuyt l iz euhm/ 1. the doctrine that phenomena are only partly controlled by mechanical forces, and are in some measure self determining. Cf. dynamism (def. 1), mechanism (def. 8) …   Universalium

  • vitalism — animism has been applied to many different philosophical systems. It is used to describe Aristotle s view of the relation of soul and body held also by the stoics and scholastics. On the other hand monadology (Leibniz) has also been termed… …   Mini philosophy glossary

  • vitalism — noun Date: 1822 1. a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from physicochemical forces 2. a doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • vitalism — noun the doctrine that life involves some immaterial vital force , and cannot be explained scientifically …   Wiktionary

  • vitalism — The theory that animal functions are dependent upon a special form of energy or force, the vital force, distinct from the physical forces. SYN: vis vitae, vis vitalis. [L. vitalis, pertaining to life] * * * vi·tal·ism vīt əl .iz əm n …   Medical dictionary

  • vitalísm — s. n …   Romanian orthography

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