Kaila's Critique of Vitalism

Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook 14:125-134 (2010)
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In the gloomy year of 1943, when Finland was fi ghting against the Soviet Union in the turmoil of World War II, Finnish philosopher Eino Kaila published a highly personal book Syvähenkinen elämä , with the subtitle Keskusteluja perimmäisistä kysymyksistä . An extended version in Swedish, Tankens oro appeared one year later.2 Kaila’s Syvähenkinen elämä mixes discussions on the meaning of life with considerations on philosophical topics that occupied its author as a proponent of logical empiricism. The main part of the book is written in the form of dialogues between two characters: Aristofi los and Eubulos. The painter Aristofi los eloquently presents a colourful pantheist vision of the world: reality is a process where Life with a capital L presses against the surface of space-matter and fl ows through its holes; human minds constituted by this process are the Eyes of Life through which Life looks around at the surrounding space-matter. Eubulos, who represents the scientifi c world conception, points out that the ideas of Aristofi los resemble the vitalism of Bergson and Driesch . Eubulos asserts that the real content of the doctrine of Life with a capital L is nothing but an expression of a personality transformed by religious conversion . As a metaphysical explanation, it appeals to superfi cial pseudo-concepts , and at the same time goes beyond experience in an unacceptable manner



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Ilkka Niiniluoto
University of Helsinki

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