Journal for General Philosophy of Science

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 73–88 | Cite as

Disentangling the Vitalism–Emergentism Knot

  • Olivier Sartenaer


Starting with the observation that there exist contradictory claims in the literature about the relationship between vitalism and emergentism—be it one of inclusion or, on the contrary, exclusion–, this paper aims at disentangling the vitalism–emergentism knot. To this purpose, after having described a particular form of emergentism, namely Lloyd Morgan’s emergent evolutionism, I develop a conceptual analysis on the basis of a distinction between varieties of monism and pluralism. This analysis allows me to identify and characterize several forms of vitalism and emergentism, and a subsequent comparison between these forms constitutes the occasion for a clarification of the relationship between both doctrines.


Vitalism Emergentism Emergence Emergent evolutionism 



I would like to thank Andrea Gambarotto, Marij van Strien and Charles Wolfe for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, as well as the audience of the workshop Forms of Vitalism held in Ghent, where an early version of this paper have been presented. I also gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut supérieur de PhilosophieCollège MercierLouvain-La-NeuveBelgium

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