A non-metaphysical evaluation of vitalism in the early twentieth century

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In biology the term “vitalism” is usually associated with Hans Driesch’s doctrine of the entelechy: entelechies were nonmaterial, bio-specific agents responsible for governing a few peculiar biological phenomena. Since vitalism defined as such violates metaphysical materialism, the received view refutes the doctrine of the entelechy as a metaphysical heresy. But in the early twentieth century, a different, non-metaphysical evaluation of vitalism was endorsed by some biologists and philosophers, which finally led to a logical refutation of the doctrine of the entelechy. In this non-metaphysical evaluation, first, vitalism was not treated as a metaphysical heresy but a legitimate response to the inadequacy of mechanistic explanations in biology. Second, the refutation of vitalism was logically rather than metaphysically supported by contemporary biological knowledge. The entelechy was not a valid concept, because vitalists could neither formulate vital laws, nor offer convincing examples of experimental indeterminism.
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DOI 10.1007/s40656-018-0221-2
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References found in this work BETA

The Dialectical Biologist.Philip Kitcher, Richard Levins & Richard Lewontin - 1989 - Philosophical Review 98 (2):262.
Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment.Peter Hanns Reill - 2006 - Journal of the History of Biology 39 (1):199-203.

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