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Vitalism (from Latin vitalis , vitality / wealthy ', by giving vita "life") is a collective term for doctrines the UPON all living a life force ( vis vitalis ) or special "stuff of life" as a separate principle, accept (When Georg Ernst Stahl represents the soul, life force and life principle). This asserts an essential difference between the organic and the inorganic.

The term vitalism is a fighting term from the 19th century. Mechanicism is an alternative . Vitalism and Mechanicism are said to be obsolete beliefs; instead, science in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries prefers to combine both concepts in systemism .

The representatives of vitalism are called vitalists . Aristotle can be regarded as a forerunner of vitalism , who regarded the living as being made possible by a life principle which he called entelechy . However, his metaphysics can also be interpreted in a functionalist-materialist way. Other terms that characterize animate in contrast to inanimate nature were calor innatus , succus nervosus , spiritus animalis , archaeus , life tone , anima , principle vital or life force .

Important representatives of vitalism in the narrower sense were Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577–1644), Georg Ernst Stahl (1659–1734), Albrecht von Haller (1708–1777), Théophile de Bordeu (1722–1776) and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752 -1840). In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Montpellier school represented its own kind of vitalism that stood out from Stahl's animism . In the 19th and early 20th centuries, thinkers of the philosophy of life also took positions of vitalism. The last important biologist to take a vitalist position (neovitalism) was Hans Driesch (1867–1941). He took up the Aristotelian concept of entelechy .

Since then, especially since Friedrich Wöhler's synthesis of urea in 1828, and especially since the spontaneous formation of amino acids in the experiments of Stanley Miller and Harold C. Urey in 1959, the vitalistic approach in biology has been considered outdated. It is concluded there that life force or life energies are not necessary for the production of organic substances. Vitalists point out, however, that the manipulated or spontaneous emergence of individual life elements should by no means be equated with the emergence of animate substance.

Features or elements of a vitalistic interpretation can also be found in the works of Franz Anton Mesmer ("animal magnetism"), Karl von Reichenbach ("Od"), Alfred Russel Wallace ("a new power vitality "), Henri Bergson (" élan vital "), Alfred North Whitehead (" creativity "), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (" Radial Energy "), Wilhelm Reich (" Orgon "), Adolf Portmann (" Self-Presentation "), Arthur Koestler (" The Ghost in the Machine ") , Ken Wilber (“holon”), Ervin László (“ Akashic field”) and Rupert Sheldrake (“ morphogenetic field ”), as well as in the Far Eastern idea of ​​a life force Prana or Qi , which was also taken up by modern western esotericism.

More recently, some cell biologists have taken up this term again in a figurative sense as “molecular vitalism”.


Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Brigitte Lohff: life force. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 832.
  2. Rudolf Eisler : Concise Dictionary of Philosophy. Berlin 1913, p. 364.
  3. Brigitte Lohff: Vitalism. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 1449-1451, here: pp. 1449 f.
  4. M. Kirschner, J. Gerhart, T. Mitchison: Molecular vitalism . In: Cell . No. 100 , 2000, pp. 79-88 .