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The term hylozoism ( ancient Greek ὕλη hyle : substance, matter (usp .: forest, wood, timber); Greek: zoe : life) was coined by Ralph Cudworth at the end of the 17th century . This term describes the cosmogonic idea that life or the ability to move oneself is a property of matter . He can stand for the following views:

  • The assumption that absolutely all things are in some way animate.
  • The idea of ​​a world permeated with life, whereby things that appear to be inanimate can be animate.
  • The conception of a world which as a whole forms a living organism or a soul.

Hylozoists were the Ionic natural philosophers who described the origin of all things from a primordial substance ( arché ), such as Thales the water, Anaximander the apeiron (the infinite), Anaximenes the air or Heraclitus the fire. Insofar as Aristotle determined simple bodies as objects (Phys. B1, 192b), which contain their own origin of movement, his philosophy is also influenced by hylozoism. In modern times the opinions u. a. characterized by Giordano Bruno and Denis Diderot as hylozoism.

Immanuel Kant judged the H .: “Hylozoism enlivens everything, materialism, on the other hand, if it is carefully considered, kills everything.” Kant described hylozoism as physical realism , according to which “the ends in nature are based on the analogue of one according to intention acting faculty, the life of matter ”. Kant himself, however, considered this position circular.

Since the 19th century the term has often been used critically by materialistic-mechanistic philosophy for all non-materialistic, non-mechanistic philosophy. In the 20th century, FCS Schiller was still assigned to hylozoism.

See also


  • Ralph Cudworth : The True Intellectual System of the Universe. London 1678
  • Hugo Spitzer : About the origin and meaning of hylozoism. A philosophical study, Leutschner and Lubensky. Graz 1881; Kessinger Publishing, 2010
  • Olof Gigon : The Origin of Greek Philosophy. From Hesiod to Parmenides. 2nd edition Basel / Stuttgart 1968
  • Fritz-Peter Hager: Hylozoism. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy . Volume 9. pp. 1237-1238
  • Jürgen Mittelstraß : Hylozoism. In: Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. Volume 2. pp. 155-156

Web links

Wiktionary: Hylozoism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Cudworth. P. 104ff
  2. Dreams of a Spirit Seer. First part, second main part, A 33
  3. Critique of Judgment . Section 72. Academy edition, Volume 5, p. 392
  4. Critique of Judgment . Section 73. Academy edition, Volume 5, p. 394