From substantival to functional vitalism and beyond: animas, organisms and attitudes

Eidos: Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad Del Norte 14:212-235 (2011)
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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.

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Charles T. Wolfe
Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès

References found in this work

Les Mote et les Choses.Michel Foucault - 1969 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 74 (2):250-251.
Vitalizing Nature in the Enlightenment.Peter Hanns Reill - 2005 - University of California Press.
The Organism.Kurt Goldstein - 1941 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 2 (2):249-253.
Of molecules and men.Francis Crick - 1966 - Seattle,: University of Washington Press.

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