Vitalism as Pathos

Biosemiotics 9 (2):185-205 (2016)
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This paper addresses the remarkable longevity of the idea of vitalism in the biological sciences and beyond. If there is to be a renewed vitalism today, however, we need to ask – on what kind of original conception of life should it be based? This paper argues that recent invocations of a generalized, processual variety of vitalism in the social sciences and humanities above all, however exciting in their scope, miss much of the basic originality – and interest – of the vitalist perspective itself. The paper argues that any renewed spirit of vitalism in the contemporary era would have to base itself on the normativity of the living organism rather than on any generalized conceptions of process or becoming. In the terms of the paper, such a vitalism would have to be concrete and ‘disciplinary’ rather than processual or generalized. Such a vitalism would also need to accommodate, crucially, the pathic aspects of life – pathology, sickness, error; in short everything that makes us, as living beings, potentially weak, without power, at a loss. Sources for such a pathic vitalism might be found above all in the work of Georges Canguilhem – and Friedrich Nietzsche – rather than primarily in Bergson, Whitehead or Deleuze.



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Citations of this work

Reasoning in Life: Values and Normativity in Georges Canguilhem.Gabriele Vissio - 2020 - International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique 33 (4):1019-1031.
Svätopluk Štúr’s criticism of Nietzsche’s vitalism.Brice D. Cantrell - 2023 - Ethics and Bioethics (in Central Europe) 13 (1-2):105-114.

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References found in this work

Theories and things.W. V. Quine (ed.) - 1981 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Nietzsche and Philosophy.Gilles Deleuze & Michael Hardt (eds.) - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bergsonism.Gilles Deleuze - 1988 - New York: Zone Books.
Anti-Oedipus.Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari - 1972 - Minnesota University Press.

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