Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800-2010

  • Sebastian Normandin
  • Charles T. Wolfe

Part of the History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences book series (HPTL, volume 2)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vi
  2. Sebastian Normandin, Charles T. Wolfe
    Pages 1-15
  3. Revisiting Vitalist Themes in Nineteenth-Century Science

  4. Twentieth-Century Debates on Vitalism in Science and Philosophy

  5. Vitalism and Contemporary Biological Developments

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 371-377

About this book


Vitalism is understood as impacting the history of the life sciences, medicine and philosophy, representing an epistemological challenge to the dominance of mechanism over the last 200 years, and partly revived with organicism in early theoretical biology. The contributions in this volume portray the history of vitalism from the end of the Enlightenment to the modern day, suggesting some reassessment of what it means both historically and conceptually. As such it includes a wide range of material, employing both historical and philosophical methodologies, and it is divided fairly evenly between 19th and 20th century historical treatments and more contemporary analysis. This volume presents a significant contribution to the current literature in the history and philosophy of science and the history of medicine.


Emergent Evolution Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire Homeostasis and vitalist roots of adaptation Jean-Baptiste Lamarck Lamarck Life and the Mind in Nineteenth-Century Britain Life as an Emergent Phenomenon Rethinking Organic Vitality in Germany The Origins of Canguilhem’s Vitalism Vitalism and the Organismic Approach Vitalism versus Emergent Materialism Vitalists’ Objections to Mechanistic Science Wilhelm Reich holism lineage and metabolism mechanism reductionism teleology vitalism vitalist themes

Editors and affiliations

  • Sebastian Normandin
    • 1
  • Charles T. Wolfe
    • 2
  1. 1.Lyman Briggs CollegeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Centre for History of Science, Dept. of Philosophy and Moral SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

Bibliographic information