Mechanism, Vitalism, and the Founding Principles of Organicism

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  • Title: Mechanism, Vitalism, and the Founding Principles of Organicism
  • Author(s): Dwayne Moore
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies
  • Keywords: Vitalism, Mechanism, Organicism, Reductionism
  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2017
  • ISSN: 2327-0055 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2376 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v15i02/9-19
  • Citation: Moore, Dwayne. 2017. "Mechanism, Vitalism, and the Founding Principles of Organicism." The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies 15 (2): 9-19. doi:10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v15i02/9-19.
  • Extent: 11 pages

Abstract

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.