Mechanism, Vitalism, and the Founding Principles of Organicism

By Dwayne Moore.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 13, 2017 $US5.00

In the early twentieth century, a debate occurred between three schools of thought on the nature of the living organism. Vitalism suggested that living organisms are inhabited by a vital principle that is the source of vital activity in the organism. Mechanists presumed that living organisms are composed of individual physicochemical parts lacking essential relations to one another, where these physicochemical parts exhaustively determine all the vital activity in the organism. Organicism, a middle ground position, supposed that living organisms are structures of physically realized functional parts bearing essential relations to one another, where the living structure partly determines the activity of the parts. Organicism faces difficulties demonstrating whether and how structure plays a role above and beyond physicochemical law. This article argues that organicism has the conceptual resources to answer this question. The article then applies the organicist view to the contemporary reductionism debate.

Keywords: Vitalism, Mechanism, Organicism, Reductionism

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2017, pp.9-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 13, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 551.547KB)).

Dr. Dwayne Moore

Assistant Professor, Philosophy Department, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada