From substantival to functional vitalism and beyond

Eidos 14:212-235 (2011)
Abstract
I distinguish between ‘substantival’ and ‘functional’ forms of vitalism in the eighteenth century. Substantival vitalism presupposes the existence of a (substantive) vital force which either plays a causal role in the natural world as studied scientifically, or remains an immaterial, extra-causal entity. Functional vitalism tends to operate ‘post facto’, from the existence of living bodies to the search for explanatory models that will account for their uniquely ‘vital’ properties better than fully mechanistic models can. I discuss representative figures of the Montpellier school (Bordeu, Ménuret, Fouquet) as functional rather than substantival vitalists, and suggest an additional point regarding the reprisal of vitalism(s) in the 20th century, from Driesch to Canguilhem: that in addition to the substantival and functional varieties, we encounter a third species of vitalism, which I term ‘attitudinal’, as it argues for vitalism as a kind of attitude.
Keywords vitalism, organism, organization, Enlightenment
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