Vitalism, by Wikipedia

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Vitalism, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sat Apr 27, 2019 10:41 pm

by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/27/19



Vitalism is the belief that "living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things".[1]a Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the "vital spark", "energy" or "élan vital", which some equate with the soul. In the 18th and 19th centuries vitalism was discussed among biologists, between those who felt that the known mechanics of physics would eventually explain the difference between life and non-life and vitalists who argued that the processes of life could not be reduced to a mechanistic process. Some vitalist biologists proposed testable hypotheses meant to show inadequacies with mechanistic explanations, but these experiments failed to provide support for vitalism. Biologists now consider vitalism in this sense to have been refuted by empirical evidence, and hence regard it as a superseded scientific theory.[2]

Vitalism has a long history in medical philosophies: many traditional healing practices posited that disease results from some imbalance in vital forces.


Ancient times

The notion that bodily functions are due to a vitalistic principle existing in all living creatures has roots going back at least to ancient Egypt.[3] In Greek philosophy, the Milesian school proposed natural explanations deduced from materialism and mechanism. However, by the time of Lucretius, this account was supplemented, (for example, by the unpredictable clinamen of Epicurus), and in Stoic physics, the pneuma assumed the role of logos. Galen believed the lungs draw pneuma from the air, which the blood communicates throughout the body.[4]


In Europe, medieval physics was influenced by the idea of pneuma, helping to shape later aether theories.

Early modern

Vitalists included English anatomist Francis Glisson (1597–1677) and the Italian doctor Marcello Malpighi (1628–1694).[5] Caspar Friedrich Wolff (1733–1794) is considered to be the father of epigenesis in embryology, that is, he marks the point when embryonic development began to be described in terms of the proliferation of cells rather than the incarnation of a preformed soul. However, this degree of empirical observation was not matched by a mechanistic philosophy: in his Theoria Generationis (1759), he tried to explain the emergence of the organism by the actions of a vis essentialis (an organizing, formative force), stating "All believers in epigenesis are vitalists." Carl Reichenbach (1788–1869) later developed the theory of Odic force, a form of life-energy that permeates living things.

In the 17th century, modern science responded to Newton's action at a distance and the mechanism of Cartesian dualism with vitalist theories: that whereas the chemical transformations undergone by non-living substances are reversible, so-called "organic" matter is permanently altered by chemical transformations (such as cooking).[6]

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach was influential in establishing epigenesis in the life sciences in 1781 with his publication of Über den Bildungstrieb und das Zeugungsgeschäfte. Blumenbach cut up freshwater Hydra and established that the removed parts would regenerate. He inferred the presence of a "formative drive" (Bildungstrieb) in living matter. But he pointed out that this name, "like names applied to every other kind of vital power, of itself, explains nothing: it serves merely to designate a peculiar power formed by the combination of the mechanical principle with that which is susceptible of modification". In the early 18th century, the physicians Marie François Xavier Bichat and John Hunter recognized a "living principle" in addition to mechanics.[5]

19th century

Jöns Jakob Berzelius, one of the early 19th century fathers of modern chemistry, argued that a regulative force must exist within living matter to maintain its functions.[6] Vitalist chemists predicted that organic materials could not be synthesized from inorganic components, but Friedrich Wöhler synthesised urea from inorganic components in 1828.[7] However, contemporary accounts do not support the common belief that vitalism died when Wöhler made urea. This Wöhler Myth, as historian Peter Ramberg called it, originated from a popular history of chemistry published in 1931, which, "ignoring all pretense of historical accuracy, turned Wöhler into a crusader who made attempt after attempt to synthesize a natural product that would refute vitalism and lift the veil of ignorance, until 'one afternoon the miracle happened'".[8][9][10]

Between 1833 and 1844, Johannes Peter Müller wrote a book on physiology called Handbuch der Physiologie, which became the leading textbook in the field for much of the nineteenth century. The book showed Müller's commitments to vitalism; he questioned why organic matter differs from inorganic, then proceeded to chemical analyses of the blood and lymph. He describes in detail the circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, nervous, and sensory systems in a wide variety of animals but explains that the presence of a soul makes each organism an indivisible whole. He also claimed the behavior of light and sound waves showed that living organisms possessed a life-energy for which physical laws could never fully account.[11]

Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) after his famous rebuttal of spontaneous generation, performed several experiments that he felt supported vitalism. According to Bechtel, Pasteur "fitted fermentation into a more general programme describing special reactions that only occur in living organisms. These are irreducibly vital phenomena." Rejecting the claims of Berzelius, Liebig, Traube and others that fermentation resulted from chemical agents or catalysts within cells, Pasteur concluded that fermentation was a "vital action".[1]

20th century

Hans Driesch (1867–1941) interpreted his experiments as showing that life is not run by physicochemical laws.[12] His main argument was that when one cuts up an embryo after its first division or two, each part grows into a complete adult. Driesch's reputation as an experimental biologist deteriorated as a result of his vitalistic theories, which scientists have seen since his time as pseudoscience.[12][13] Vitalism is a superseded scientific hypothesis, and the term is sometimes used as a pejorative epithet.[14] Ernst Mayr (1904–2005) wrote:

It would be ahistorical to ridicule vitalists. When one reads the writings of one of the leading vitalists like Driesch one is forced to agree with him that many of the basic problems of biology simply cannot be solved by a philosophy as that of Descartes, in which the organism is simply considered a machine... The logic of the critique of the vitalists was impeccable.[15]

Vitalism has become so disreputable a belief in the last fifty years that no biologist alive today would want to be classified as a vitalist. Still, the remnants of vitalist thinking can be found in the work of Alistair Hardy, Sewall Wright, and Charles Birch, who seem to believe in some sort of nonmaterial principle in organisms.[16]

Other vitalists included Johannes Reinke and Oscar Hertwig. Reinke used the word neovitalism to describe his work, claiming that it would eventually be verified through experimentation, and that it was an improvement over the other vitalistic theories. The work of Reinke influenced Carl Jung.[17]

John Scott Haldane adopted an anti-mechanist approach to biology and an idealist philosophy early on in his career. Haldane saw his work as a vindication of his belief that teleology was an essential concept in biology. His views became widely known with his first book Mechanism, life and personality in 1913.[18] Haldane borrowed arguments from the vitalists to use against mechanism; however, he was not a vitalist. Haldane treated the organism as fundamental to biology: "we perceive the organism as a self-regulating entity", "every effort to analyze it into components that can be reduced to a mechanical explanation violates this central experience".[18] The work of Haldane was an influence on organicism.

Haldane also stated that a purely mechanist interpretation can not account for the characteristics of life. Haldane wrote a number of books in which he attempted to show the invalidity of both vitalism and mechanist approaches to science. Haldane explained:

We must find a different theoretical basis of biology, based on the observation that all the phenomena concerned tend towards being so coordinated that they express what is normal for an adult organism.

— [19]

By 1931, biologists had "almost unanimously abandoned vitalism as an acknowledged belief."[19]


Some aspects of contemporary science make reference to emergent processes; those in which the properties of a system cannot be fully described in terms of the properties of the constituents.[20][21] This may be because the properties of the constituents are not fully understood, or because the interactions between the individual constituents are also important for the behavior of the system.

Whether emergence should be grouped with traditional vitalist concepts is a matter of semantic controversy.[22] According to Emmeche et al. (1997):

On the one hand, many scientists and philosophers regard emergence as having only a pseudo-scientific status. On the other hand, new developments in physics, biology, psychology, and cross-disciplinary fields such as cognitive science, artificial life, and the study of non-linear dynamical systems have focused strongly on the high level 'collective behaviour' of complex systems, which is often said to be truly emergent, and the term is increasingly used to characterize such systems.

— [23]

Emmeche et al. (1998) state that "there is a very important difference between the vitalists and the emergentists: the vitalist's creative forces were relevant only in organic substances, not in inorganic matter. Emergence hence is creation of new properties regardless of the substance involved." "The assumption of an extra-physical vitalis (vital force, entelechy, élan vital, etc.), as formulated in most forms (old or new) of vitalism, is usually without any genuine explanatory power. It has served altogether too often as an intellectual tranquilizer or verbal sedative—stifling scientific inquiry rather than encouraging it to proceed in new directions."[24]


A popular vitalist theory of the 18th century was "animal magnetism", in the theories of Franz Mesmer (1734–1815). However, the use of the (conventional) English term animal magnetism to translate Mesmer's magnétisme animal can be misleading for three reasons:

1. Mesmer chose his term to clearly distinguish his variant of magnetic force from those referred to, at that time, as mineral magnetism, cosmic magnetism and planetary magnetism.

2. Mesmer felt that this particular force/power only resided in the bodies of humans and animals.

3. Mesmer chose the word "animal," for its root meaning (from Latin animus="breath") specifically to identify his force as a quality that belonged to all creatures with breath; viz., the animate beings: humans and animals.

Mesmer's ideas became so influential that King Louis XVI of France appointed two commissions to investigate mesmerism; one was led by Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the other, led by Benjamin Franklin, included Bailly and Lavoisier. The commissioners learned about Mesmeric theory, and saw its patients fall into fits and trances. In Franklin's garden, a patient was led to each of five trees, one of which had been "mesmerized"; he hugged each in turn to receive the "vital fluid," but fainted at the foot of a 'wrong' one. At Lavoisier's house, four normal cups of water were held before a "sensitive" woman; the fourth produced convulsions, but she calmly swallowed the mesmerized contents of a fifth, believing it to be plain water. The commissioners concluded that "the fluid without imagination is powerless, whereas imagination without the fluid can produce the effects of the fluid."[25]

Medical philosophies

Vitalism has a long history in medical philosophies: many traditional healing practices posited that disease results from some imbalance in vital forces. In the Western tradition founded by Hippocrates, these vital forces were associated with the four temperaments and humours; Eastern traditions posited an imbalance or blocking of qi or prana. One example of a similar notion in Africa is the Yoruba concept of ase. Today forms of vitalism continue to exist as philosophical positions or as tenets in some religious traditions.[citation needed]

Complementary and alternative medicine therapies include energy therapies,[26] associated with vitalism, especially biofield therapies such as therapeutic touch, Reiki, external qi, chakra healing and SHEN therapy.[27] In these therapies, the "subtle energy" field of a patient is manipulated by a practitioner. The subtle energy is held to exist beyond the electromagnetic energy produced by the heart and brain. Beverly Rubik describes the biofield as a "complex, dynamic, extremely weak EM field within and around the human body...."[27]

The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, promoted an immaterial, vitalistic view of disease: "...they are solely spirit-like (dynamic) derangements of the spirit-like power (the vital principle) that animates the human body." The view of disease as a dynamic disturbance of the immaterial and dynamic vital force is taught in many homeopathic colleges and constitutes a fundamental principle for many contemporary practising homeopaths.


Vitalism has sometimes been criticized as begging the question by inventing a name. Molière had famously parodied this fallacy in Le Malade imaginaire, where a quack "answers" the question of "Why does opium cause sleep?" with "Because of its dormitive virtue (i.e., soporific power)."[28] Thomas Henry Huxley compared vitalism to stating that water is the way it is because of its "aquosity".[29] His grandson Julian Huxley in 1926 compared "vital force" or élan vital to explaining a railroad locomotive's operation by its élan locomotif ("locomotive force").

Another criticism is that vitalists have failed to rule out mechanistic explanations. This is rather obvious in retrospect for organic chemistry and developmental biology, but the criticism goes back at least a century. In 1912, Jacques Loeb published The Mechanistic Conception of Life, in which he described experiments on how a sea urchin could have a pin for its father, as Bertrand Russell put it (Religion and Science). He offered this challenge:

"... we must either succeed in producing living matter artificially, or we must find the reasons why this is impossible." (pp. 5–6)

Loeb addressed vitalism more explicitly:

"It is, therefore, unwarranted to continue the statement that in addition to the acceleration of oxidations the beginning of individual life is determined by the entrance of a metaphysical "life principle" into the egg; and that death is determined, aside from the cessation of oxidations, by the departure of this "principle" from the body. In the case of the evaporation of water we are satisfied with the explanation given by the kinetic theory of gases and do not demand that to repeat a well-known jest of Huxley the disappearance of the "aquosity" be also taken into consideration." (pp. 14–15)
Bechtel states that vitalism "is often viewed as unfalsifiable, and therefore a pernicious metaphysical doctrine."[1] For many scientists, "vitalist" theories were unsatisfactory "holding positions" on the pathway to mechanistic understanding. In 1967, Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, stated "And so to those of you who may be vitalists I would make this prophecy: what everyone believed yesterday, and you believe today, only cranks will believe tomorrow."[30]

While many vitalistic theories have in fact been falsified, notably Mesmerism, the pseudoscientific retention of untested and untestable theories continues to this day. Alan Sokal published an analysis of the wide acceptance among professional nurses of "scientific theories" of spiritual healing. (Pseudoscience and Postmodernism: Antagonists or Fellow-Travelers?).[31] Use of a technique called therapeutic touch was especially reviewed by Sokal, who concluded, "nearly all the pseudoscientific systems to be examined in this essay are based philosophically on vitalism" and added that "Mainstream science has rejected vitalism since at least the 1930s, for a plethora of good reasons that have only become stronger with time."[31]

Joseph C. Keating, Jr.[32] discusses vitalism's past and present roles in chiropractic and calls vitalism "a form of bio-theology." He further explains that:

"Vitalism is that rejected tradition in biology which proposes that life is sustained and explained by an unmeasurable, intelligent force or energy. The supposed effects of vitalism are the manifestations of life itself, which in turn are the basis for inferring the concept in the first place. This circular reasoning offers pseudo-explanation, and may deceive us into believing we have explained some aspect of biology when in fact we have only labeled our ignorance. 'Explaining an unknown (life) with an unknowable (Innate),' suggests chiropractor Joseph Donahue, 'is absurd'."[33]

Keating views vitalism as incompatible with scientific thinking:

"Chiropractors are not unique in recognizing a tendency and capacity for self-repair and auto-regulation of human physiology. But we surely stick out like a sore thumb among professions which claim to be scientifically based by our unrelenting commitment to vitalism. So long as we propound the 'One cause, one cure' rhetoric of Innate, we should expect to be met by ridicule from the wider health science community. Chiropractors can't have it both ways. Our theories cannot be both dogmatically held vitalistic constructs and be scientific at the same time. The purposiveness, consciousness and rigidity of the Palmers' Innate should be rejected."[33]

Keating also mentions Skinner's viewpoint:

"Vitalism has many faces and has sprung up in many areas of scientific inquiry. Psychologist B.F. Skinner, for example, pointed out the irrationality of attributing behavior to mental states and traits. Such 'mental way stations,' he argued, amount to excess theoretical baggage which fails to advance cause-and-effect explanations by substituting an unfathomable psychology of 'mind'."[33]

According to Williams, "[t]oday, vitalism is one of the ideas that form the basis for many pseudoscientific health systems that claim that illnesses are caused by a disturbance or imbalance of the body's vital force."[34] "Vitalists claim to be scientific, but in fact they reject the scientific method with its basic postulates of cause and effect and of provability. They often regard subjective experience to be more valid than objective material reality."[34]

Victor Stenger[35] states that the term "bioenergetics" "is applied in biochemistry to refer to the readily measurable exchanges of energy within organisms, and between organisms and the environment, which occur by normal physical and chemical processes. This is not, however, what the new vitalists have in mind. They imagine the bioenergetic field as a holistic living force that goes beyond reductionist physics and chemistry."[36]

Such a field is sometimes explained as electromagnetic, though some advocates also make confused appeals to quantum physics.[27] Joanne Stefanatos states that "The principles of energy medicine originate in quantum physics."[37] Stenger[36] offers several explanations as to why this line of reasoning may be misplaced. He explains that energy exists in discrete packets called quanta. Energy fields are composed of their component parts and so only exist when quanta are present. Therefore, energy fields are not holistic, but are rather a system of discrete parts that must obey the laws of physics. This also means that energy fields are not instantaneous. These facts of quantum physics place limitations on the infinite, continuous field that is used by some theorists to describe so-called "human energy fields".[38] Stenger continues, explaining that the effects of EM forces have been measured by physicists as accurately as one part in a billion and there is yet to be any evidence that living organisms emit a unique field.[36]

Vitalistic thinking has also been identified in the naive biological theories of children: "Recent experimental results show that a majority of preschoolers tend to choose vitalistic explanations as most plausible. Vitalism, together with other forms of intermediate causality, constitute unique causal devices for naive biology as a core domain of thought."[39]

See also

• Energy (esotericism)
• Etheric body
• Georges Canguilhem
• Henri Bergson
• Holism in science
• Homeopathy
• Irreducible complexity
• Lebensphilosophie
• Mind-body dualism
• Odic force
• Orenda
• Orgone
• Orthogenesis
• Vis medicatrix naturae
• Vital materialism
• Vitality


• Stéphane Leduc and D'Arcy Thompson (On Growth and Form) published a series of works that in Evelyn Fox Keller's view took on the task of uprooting the remaining vestiges of vitalism, essentially by showing that the principles of physics and chemistry were enough, by themselves, to account for the growth and development of biological form.[40] On the other hand, Michael Ruse notes that D'Arcy Thompson's avoidance of natural selection had an "odor of spirit forces" about it.[41]
1. Bechtel, William; Williamson, Robert C. (1998). E. Craig (ed.). Vitalism. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
2. Williams, Elizabeth Ann (2003). A Cultural History of Medical Vitalism in Enlightenment Montpellier. Ashgate. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-7546-0881-3.
3. Jidenu, Paulin (1996) African Philosophy, 2nd Ed. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-21096-8, p.16.
4. Birch, Charles; Cobb, John B. The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community, 1985, p. 75
5. Birch, Charles; Cobb, John B. The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community, 1985, pp. 76–78
6. Ede, Andrew. (2007) The Rise and Decline of Colloid Science in North America, 1900–1935: The Neglected Dimension, p. 23
7. Vitalism and Synthesis of Urea
8. The Real Death of Vitalism: Implications of the Wöhler Myth
9. Schummer, J. ... y_SHPS.pdf, 2003
10. In 1845, Adolph Kolbe succeeded in making acetic acid from inorganic compounds, and in the 1850s, Marcellin Berthelot repeated this feat for numerous organic compounds. In retrospect, Wöhler's work was the beginning of the end of Berzelius's vitalist hypothesis, but only in retrospect, as Ramberg had shown.
12. Developmental Biology 8e Online: A Selective History of Induction Archived 2006-10-31 at the Wayback Machine
13. Sebastian Normandin; Charles T. Wolfe (2013). Introduction. Vitalism and the Scientific Image in Post-Enlightenment Life Science, 1800–2010. Springer. p. 104. ISBN 978-94-007-2445-7. In medicine and biology, vitalism has been seen as a philosophically-charged term, a pseudoscientific gloss that corrupted scientific practice …
14. "Other writers (eg, Peterfreund, 1971) simply use the term vitalism as a pejorative label." in Galatzer-Levy, RM (1976) Psychic Energy, A Historical Perspective Ann Psychoanal 4:41–61 [1]
15. Mayr E (2002) The Walter Arndt Lecture: The Autonomy of Biology, adapted for the internet, on "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-26. Retrieved 2006-09-24.
16. Ernst Mayr Toward a new philosophy of biology: observations of an evolutionist 1988, p. 13
17. Noll, Richard. "Jung's Concept of Die Dominanten (The Dominants)". ... ants_1997_
18. Bowler, Peter J. Reconciling science and religion: the debate in early-twentieth-century Britain, 2001, pp. 168–169
19. Mayr, Ernst (2010). "The Decline of Vitalism". In Bedau, Mark A.; Cleland, Carol E. (eds.). The Nature of Life: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives from Philosophy and Science. Cambridge University Press. pp. 93–95. ISBN 9781139488655. Yet considering how dominant vitalism was in biology and for how long a period it prevailed, it is surprising how rapidly and completely it collapsed. The last support of vitalism as a viable concept in biology disappeared about 1930." (p. 94)
From p. 95: "Vitalism survived even longer in the writings of philosophers than it did in the writings of physicists. But so far as I know, there are no vitalists among the philosophers of biology who started publishing after 1965. Nor do I know of a single reputable living biologist who still supports straightforward vitalism. The few late twentieth-century biologists with vitalist leanings (A. Hardy, S. Wright, A. Portmann) are no longer alive.
20. Schultz, S.G. (1998). "A century of (epithelial) transport physiology: from vitalism to molecular cloning". The American Journal of Physiology. 274 (1 Pt 1): C13–23. doi:10.1152/ajpcell.1998.274.1.C13. PMID 9458708.
21. Gilbert, S.F.; Sarkar, S. (2000). "Embracing complexity: organicism for the 21st century". Developmental Dynamics. 219 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1002/1097-0177(2000)9999:9999<::AID-DVDY1036>3.0.CO;2-A. PMID 10974666.
22. see "Emergent Properties" in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. online at Stanford University for explicit discussion; briefly, some philosophers see emergentism as midway between traditional spiritual vitalism and mechanistic reductionism; others argue that, structurally, emergentism is equivalent to vitalism. See also Emmeche C (2001) Does a robot have an Umwelt? Semiotica134: 653–693 [2]
23. Emmeche C (1997) Explaining Emergence: towards an ontology of levels. Journal for General Philosophy of Science available online Archived 2006-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
24. Dictionary of the History of Ideas Archived 2011-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
25. Best, M.; Neuhauser, D.; Slavin, L. (2003). "Evaluating Mesmerism, Paris, 1784: the controversy over the blinded placebo controlled trials has not stopped". Quality & Safety in Health Care. 12 (3): 232–3. doi:10.1136/qhc.12.3.232. PMC 1743715. PMID 12792017.
26. "Complementary and Alternative Medicine – U.S. National Library of Medicine Collection Development Manual". Retrieved 2008-03-31.
27. Rubik, Bioenergetic Medicines, American Medical Student Association Foundation, viewed 28 November 2006, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
28. Mihi a docto doctore / Demandatur causam et rationem quare / Opium facit dormire. / A quoi respondeo, / Quia est in eo / Vertus dormitiva, / Cujus est natura / Sensus assoupire. Le Malade imaginaire, (French Wikisource)
29. The Physical Basis of Life, Pall Mall Gazette, 1869
30. Crick, Francis (1967) Of Molecules and Men; Great Minds Series Prometheus Books 2004, reviewed here. Crick's remark is cited and discussed in: Hein H (2004) Molecular biology vs. organicism: The enduring dispute between mechanism and vitalism. Synthese 20:238–253, who describes Crick's remark as "raising spectral red herrings".
31. Pseudoscience and Postmodernism: Antagonists or Fellow-Travelers?
32. Joseph C. Keating, Jr., PhD: Biographical sketch Archived 2006-05-25 at the Wayback Machine
33. Keating, Joseph C. (2002), "The Meanings of Innate", The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 46 (1): 4–10, PMC 2505097
34. Williams, William F., ed. (2013). "Vitalism". Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy (revised ed.). p. 367. ISBN 9781135955229. VITALISM &NDASH; The concept that bodily functions are due to a 'vital principle' or 'life force' that is distinct from the physical forces explainable by the laws of chemistry and physics. Many alternative approaches to modern medicine are rooted in vitalism. ...
The exact nature of the vital force was debated by early philosophers, but vitalism in one form or another remained the preferred thinking behind most science and medicine until 1828. That year, German scientist Friedrich Wöhler(1800–82) synthesized an organic compound from an inorganic substance, a process that vitalists considered to be impossible. ...
Vitalists claim to be scientific, but in fact they reject the scientific method with its basic postulates of cause and effect and of provability. They often regard subjective experience to be more valid than objective material reality.
Today, vitalism is one of the ideas that form the basis for many pseudoscientific health systems that claim that illnesses are caused by a disturbance or imbalance of the body's vital force.
35. Victor J. Stenger's site Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
36. Stenger, Victor J. (Spring–Summer 1999). "The Physics of 'Alternative Medicine': Bioenergetic Fields". The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. 3 (1). Archived from the original on 2006-12-18. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
37. Stefanatos, J. 1997, Introduction to Bioenergetic Medicine, Shoen, A.M. and S.G. Wynn, Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine: Principles and Practices, Mosby-Yearbook, Chicago.
38. Biley, Francis C. 2005, Unitary Health Care: Martha Rogers' Science of Unitary Human Beings, University of Wales College of Medicine, viewed 30 November 2006, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
39. Inagaki, K.; Hatano, G. (2004). "'Vitalistic causality in young children's naive biology.'". Trends Cogn Sci. 8 (8): 356–62. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2004.06.004. PMID 15335462.
40. Evelyn Fox Keller, Making Sense of Life Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines. Harvard University Press, 2002.
41. Ruse, Michael (2013). "17. From Organicism to Mechanism-and Halfway Back?". In Henning, Brian G.; Scarfe, Adam (eds.). Beyond Mechanism: Putting Life Back Into Biology. Lexington Books. p. 419.

External links

• Vitalism on In Our Time at the BBC
• Vitalism at the Skeptic's Dictionary
• For vital force and vitalism in the Spanish context, see Nicolás Fernández-Medina’s Life Embodied: The Promise of Vital Force in Spanish Modernity(McGill-Queen’s UP, 2018).
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Re: Vitalism, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:20 am

Élan vital
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/27/19



Élan vital (French pronunciation: ​[elɑ̃.vital]) is a term coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, in which he addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Elan vital was translated in the English edition as "vital impetus", but is usually translated by his detractors as "vital force". It is a hypothetical explanation for evolution and development of organisms, which Bergson linked closely with consciousness – with the intuitive perception of experience and the flow of inner time.[1]


Distant anticipations of Bergson can be found in the work of the pre-Christian Stoic philosopher Posidonius, who postulated a "vital force" emanated by the sun to all living creatures on the Earth's surface, and in that of Zeno of Elea.[2] The concept of élan vital is also similar to Arthur Schopenhauer's concept of the will-to-live.[3]

Later developments

It was believed by some that this essence (élan vital) could be harvested and embedded into an inanimate substance and activated with electricity, perhaps taking literally another of Bergson's metaphorical descriptions, the "current of life".

The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze attempted to recoup the novelty of Bergson's idea in his book Bergsonism, though the term itself underwent substantial changes by Deleuze. No longer considered a mystical, elusive force acting on brute matter, as it was in the vitalist debates of the late 19th century, élan vital in Deleuze's hands denotes an internal force,[4] a substance in which the distinction between organic and inorganic matter is indiscernible, and the emergence of life undecidable.

The notion of élan vital also had considerable influence on the psychiatrist and phenomenologist Eugène Minkowski and his own concept of a personal élan[5] – the element which keeps us in touch with a feeling of life (and is lost in autism).[6]

The French army incorporated the doctrine of élan vital into its thinking during the leadup to the First World War by arguing that the spirit of individual soldiers was more important for victory than weapons.[7]


• Current general consensus by geneticists is that they see no life force other than the organisational matrix contained in the genes themselves.[8]

• The British biologist Julian Huxley dryly remarked that Bergson’s élan vital is no better an explanation of life than is explaining the operation of a railway engine by its élan locomotif ("locomotive driving force"). The same alleged epistemological fallacy is parodied in Molière's Le Malade imaginaire, where a quack "answers" the question of "Why does opium cause sleep?" with "Because of its soporific power."[9] However, Huxley happily used the term élan vital in a more metaphorical sense, as may be seen from the following excerpt:

When I was just last in New York, I went for a walk, leaving Fifth Avenue and the Business section behind me, into the crowded streets near the Bowery. And while I was there, I had a sudden feeling of relief and confidence. There was Bergson’s élan vital—there was assimilation causing life to exert as much pressure, though embodied here in the shape of men, as it has ever done in the earliest year of evolution: there was the driving force of progress

— lecture 1, n.p.,[This quote needs a citation] J. Huxley papers

• Author and popular theologian C.S. Lewis rejected Bergson's concept in his essay The Weight of Glory stating "...even if all the happiness they promised could come to man on earth, yet still each generation would lose it by death, including the last generation of all, and the whole story would be nothing, not even a story, for ever and ever. Hence all the nonsense that Mr. Shaw puts into the final speech of Lilith, and Bergson’s remark that the élan vital is capable of surmounting all obstacles, perhaps even death—as if we could believe that any social or biological development on this planet will delay the senility of the sun or reverse the second law of thermodynamics."[10]

See also

• Emergence
• Joie de vivre
• Orthogenesis
• Parable of the Invisible Gardener
• Recapitulation theory
• Vis viva
• Vitalism


1. S. Atkinson ed., The Philosophy Book (2011) p. 227
2. Eric Benre, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (1976) p. 98-9
3. L. Vikka, The Intrinsic Value of Nature (1997) p. 56-7
4. K. Ansell-Pearson, Germinal Life (2012) p. 21
5. H. Spiegelberg, Phenomenology in Psychology and Psychiatry (1972) p. 244
6. J. Picchione, The New Avant-Garde in Italy (2004) p. 16
7. MacMillan, Margaret (2013). The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. New York: Random House. p. 258. ISBN 978-1-4000-6855-5.
8. R. F. Weir, ed., Genes and Human Self-Knowledge (1994) p. 37
9. Mihi a docto doctore / Demandatur causam et rationem quare / Opium facit dormire. / A quoi respondeo, / Quia est in eo / Vertus dormitiva, / Cujus est natura / Sensus assoupire.Le Malade imaginaire, (French Wikisource)
10. C. S. Lewis, Essay Collection (2000) p. 99
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Re: Vitalism, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:39 am

Part 1 of 2

by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/27/19



Image of the soul in the Rosarium philosophorum.

The soul, in many religious, philosophical, and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a living being.[1] Soul or psyche (Ancient Greek: ψυχή psūkhḗ, of ψύχειν psū́khein, "to breathe") are the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking, etc. Depending on the philosophical system, a soul can either be mortal or immortal.[2] In Judeo-Christianity, only human beings have immortal souls (although immortality is disputed within Judaism and may have been influenced by Plato).[3] For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed "soul" (anima) to all organisms but argued that only human souls are immortal.[4]

Other religions (most notably Hinduism and Jainism) hold that all living things from the smallest bacterium to the largest of mammals are the souls themselves (Atman, jiva) and have their physical representative (the body) in the world. The actual self is the soul, while the body is only a mechanism to experience the karma of that life. Thus if we see a tiger then there is a self-conscious identity residing in it (the soul), and a physical representative (the whole body of the tiger, which is observable) in the world. Some teach that even non-biological entities (such as rivers and mountains) possess souls. This belief is called animism.[5] Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, understood that the soul (ψυχή psūchê) must have a logical faculty, the exercise of which was the most divine of human actions. At his defense trial, Socrates even summarized his teaching as nothing other than an exhortation for his fellow Athenians to excel in matters of the psyche since all bodily goods are dependent on such excellence (Apology 30a–b).

The current consensus of modern science is that there is no evidence to support the existence of the soul when traditionally defined as the spiritual breath of the body. In metaphysics, the concept of "Soul" may be equated with that of "Mind" in order to refer to the consciousness and intellect of the individual.


The Modern English word "soul", derived from Old English sáwol, sáwel, was first attested in the 8th century poem Beowulf v. 2820 and in the Vespasian Psalter 77.50 . It is cognate with other German and Baltic terms for the same idea, including Gothic saiwala, Old High German sêula, sêla, Old Saxon sêola, Old Low Franconian sêla, sîla, Old Norse sála and Lithuanian siela. Deeper etymology of the Germanic word is unclear.

The original concept behind the Germanic root is thought to mean “coming from or belonging to the sea (or lake)”, because of the Germanic and pre-Celtic belief in souls emerging from and returning to sacred lakes, Old Saxon sêola (soul) compared to Old Saxon sêo (sea).


The Koine Greek Septuagint uses ψυχή (psyche) to translate Hebrew נפש (nephesh), meaning "life, vital breath", and specifically refers to a mortal, physical life, but in English it is variously translated as "soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion"; an example can be found in Genesis 1:21:

Hebrew – וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-הַתַּנִּינִם הַגְּדֹלִים; וְאֵת כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ הַחַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת

Septuagint – καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ κήτη τὰ μεγάλα καὶ πᾶσαν ψυχὴν ζῴων ἑρπετῶν.

Vulgate – Creavitque Deus cete grandia, et omnem animam viventem atque motabilem.

Authorized King James Version – "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth."

The Koine Greek word ψυχή (psychē), "life, spirit, consciousness", is derived from a verb meaning "to cool, to blow", and hence refers to the breath, as opposed to σῶμα (soma), meaning "body".[citation needed] Psychē occurs juxtaposed to σῶμα, as seen in Matthew 10:28:

Greek – καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ.

Vulgate – et nolite timere eos qui occidunt corpus animam autem non possunt occidere sed potius eum timete qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehennam.

Authorized King James Version (KJV) – "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Paul the Apostle used ψυχή (psychē) and πνεῦμα (pneuma) specifically to distinguish between the Jewish notions of נפש (nephesh) and רוח ruah (spirit)[citation needed] (also in the Septuagint, e.g. Genesis 1:2 רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים = πνεῦμα θεοῦ = spiritus Dei = "the Spirit of God").

Religious views

Ancient Near East

The souls of Pe and Nekhen towing the royal bargue on a relief of Ramesses II's temple in Abydos.

In the ancient Egyptian religion, an individual was believed to be made up of various elements, some physical and some spiritual. Similar ideas are found in ancient Assyrian and Babylonian religion. Kuttamuwa, an 8th-century BCE royal official from Sam'al, ordered an inscribed stele erected upon his death. The inscription requested that his mourners commemorate his life and his afterlife with feasts "for my soul that is in this stele". It is one of the earliest references to a soul as a separate entity from the body. The 800-pound (360 kg) basalt stele is 3 ft (0.91 m) tall and 2 ft (0.61 m) wide. It was uncovered in the third season of excavations by the Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois.[6]


The Bahá'í Faith affirms that "the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel".[7] Bahá'u'lláh stated that the soul not only continues to live after the physical death of the human body, but is, in fact, immortal.[8] Heaven can be seen partly as the soul's state of nearness to God; and hell as a state of remoteness from God. Each state follows as a natural consequence of individual efforts, or the lack thereof, to develop spiritually.[9] Bahá'u'lláh taught that individuals have no existence prior to their life here on earth and the soul's evolution is always towards God and away from the material world.[9]


Buddhism teaches that all things are in a constant state of flux: all is changing, and no permanent state exists by itself.[10][11] This applies to human beings as much as to anything else in the cosmos. Thus, a human being has no permanent self.[12][13] According to this doctrine of anatta (Pāli; Sanskrit: anātman) – "no-self" or "no soul" – the words "I" or "me" do not refer to any fixed thing. They are simply convenient terms that allow us to refer to an ever-changing entity.[14]

The anatta doctrine is not a kind of materialism. Buddhism does not deny the existence of "immaterial" entities, and it (at least traditionally) distinguishes bodily states from mental states.[15] Thus, the conventional translation of anatta as "no-soul"[16] can be confusing. If the word "soul" simply refers to an incorporeal component in living things that can continue after death, then Buddhism does not deny the existence of the soul.[17] Instead, Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent entity that remains constant behind the changing corporeal and incorporeal components of a living being. Just as the body changes from moment to moment, so thoughts come and go, and there is no permanent state underlying the mind that experiences these thoughts, as in Cartesianism. Conscious mental states simply arise and perish with no "thinker" behind them.[18] When the body dies, Buddhists believe the incorporeal mental processes continue and are reborn in a new body.[17] Because the mental processes are constantly changing, the being that is reborn is neither entirely different from, nor exactly the same as, the being that died.[19] However, the new being is continuous with the being that died – in the same way that the "you" of this moment is continuous with the "you" of a moment before, despite the fact that you are constantly changing.[20]

Buddhist teaching holds that a notion of a permanent, abiding self is a delusion that is one of the causes of human conflict on the emotional, social, and political levels.[21][22] They add that an understanding of anatta provides an accurate description of the human condition, and that this understanding allows us to pacify our mundane desires.

Various schools of Buddhism have differing ideas about what continues after death.[23] The Yogacara school in Mahayana Buddhism said there are Store consciousness which continue to exist after death.[24] In some schools, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, the view is that there are three minds: very subtle mind, which does not disintegrate in death; subtle mind, which disintegrates in death and which is "dreaming mind" or "unconscious mind"; and gross mind, which does not exist when one is sleeping. Therefore, gross mind is less permanent than subtle mind, which does not exist in death. Very subtle mind, however, does continue, and when it "catches on", or coincides with phenomena, again, a new subtle mind emerges, with its own personality/assumptions/habits, and that entity experiences karma in the current continuum.

Plants were said to be non-sentient (無情),[25] but Buddhist monks are required to not cut or burn trees, because some sentient beings rely on them.[26] Some Mahayana monks said non-sentient beings such as plants and stones have Buddha-nature.[27][28]

Certain modern Buddhists, particularly in Western countries, reject—or at least take an agnostic stance toward—the concept of rebirth or reincarnation. Stephen Batchelor discusses this in his book Buddhism Without Beliefs. Others point to research that has been conducted at the University of Virginia as proof that some people are reborn.[29]


Soul carried to Heaven by William Bouguereau

Most Christians understand the soul as an ontological reality distinct from, yet integrally connected with, the body. Its characteristics are described[by whom?] in moral, spiritual, and philosophical terms. Richard Swinburne (1934- ), an Orthodox Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, wrote that "it is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualists cannot say what souls are. Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties. They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs, and perform intentional actions. Souls are essential parts of human beings".[citation needed] According to a common Christian eschatology, when people die, their souls will be judged by God and determined to go to Heaven or to Hell. Though all major branches of Christianity – Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Evangelical, and mainline Protestants – teach that Jesus Christ plays a decisive role in the Christian salvation process, the specifics of that role and the part played by individual persons or by ecclesiastical rituals and relationships, is a matter of wide diversity in official church teaching, theological speculation and popular practice. Some[which?] Christians believe that if one has not repented of one's sins and has not trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, one will go to Hell and suffer eternal damnation or eternal separation from God. Some[who?] hold a belief that babies (including the unborn) and those with cognitive or mental impairments who have died will be received into Heaven on the basis of God's grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.[30][need quotation to verify]

Other Christians understand the soul as the life, and believe that the dead are sleeping (Christian conditionalism). This belief is traditionally accompanied by the belief that the unrighteous soul will cease to exist instead of suffering eternally (annihilationism). Believers will inherit eternal life either in Heaven, or in a Kingdom of God on earth, and enjoy eternal fellowship with God.

There are also beliefs in universal salvation.

The Damned Soul. Drawing by Michelangelo Buonarroti c. 1525

Trichotomy of the soul

Augustine (354-430), one of western Christianity's most influential early Christian thinkers, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body". Some Christians espouse a trichotomic view of humans, which characterizes humans as consisting of a body (soma), soul (psyche), and spirit (pneuma).[31] However, the majority of modern Bible scholars point out how the concepts of "spirit" and of "soul" are used interchangeably in many biblical passages, and so hold to dichotomy: the view that each human comprises a body and a soul. Paul said that the "body wars against" the soul, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit" (Heb 4:12 NASB), and that "I buffet my body", to keep it under control. Trichotomy was changed to dichotomy as tenet of Christian faith at the Council of Constantinople in 869, which Roman Catholics regard as the 8th Ecumenical Council.[citation needed]

Origin of the soul

The "origin of the soul" has provided a vexing question in Christianity. The major theories put forward include soul creationism, traducianism, and pre-existence. According to soul creationism, God creates each individual soul created directly, either at the moment of conception or some later time. According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the preexistence theory, the soul exists before the moment of conception. There have been differing thoughts regarding whether human embryos have souls from conception, or whether there is a point between conception and birth where the fetus acquires a soul, consciousness, and/or personhood. Stances in this question might play a role in judgements on the morality of abortion.[32][33][34]

Views of various denominations

The present Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the soul as "the innermost aspect of humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are in God's image described as 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man".[35] All souls living and dead will be judged by Jesus Christ when he comes back to earth. The Catholic Church teaches that the existence of each individual soul is dependent wholly upon God: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God."[36]

Depiction of the soul on a 17th-century tombstone at the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow

Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence, but fall into two major camps about what this means in terms of an afterlife. Some, following Calvin,[37] believe in the immortality of the soul and conscious existence after death, while others, following Luther,[38] believe in the mortality of the soul and unconscious "sleep" until the resurrection of the dead.[39] Various new religious movements deriving from Adventism—including Christadelphians,[40] Seventh-day Adventists[citation needed] and Jehovah's Witnesses[41][42]—similarly believe that the dead do not possess a soul separate from the body and are unconscious until the resurrection.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the spirit and body together constitute the Soul of Man (Mankind). "The spirit and the body are the soul of man."[43] Latter-day Saints believe that the soul is the union of a pre-existing, God-made spirit[44][45][46] and a temporal body, which is formed by physical conception on earth. After death, the spirit continues to live and progress in the Spirit world until the resurrection, when it is reunited with the body that once housed it. This reuniting of body and spirit results in a perfect soul that is immortal and eternal and capable of receiving a fulness of joy.[47][48] Latter-day Saint cosmology also describes "intelligences" as the essence of consciousness or agency. These are co-eternal with God, and animate the spirits.[49] The union of a newly-created spirit body with an eternally-existing intelligence constitutes a "spirit birth"[citation needed] and justifies God's title "Father of our spirits".[50][51][52]

Mortality or immortality

Main articles: Immortality of the soul, Christian conditionalism, Christian mortalism, and Annihilationism


Some Confucian traditions contrast a spiritual soul with a corporeal soul.[53]


Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul.[54][55][56] In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ātman is the first principle,[57] the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual. In order to attain liberation (moksha), a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana), which is to realize that one's true self (Ātman) is identical with the transcendent self Brahman.[55][58]

The six orthodox schools of Hinduism believe that there is Ātman (self, essence) in every being.[59]

In Hinduism and Jainism, a jiva (Sanskrit: जीव, jīva, alternative spelling jiwa; Hindi: जीव, jīv, alternative spelling jeev) is a living being, or any entity imbued with a life force.[60]

In Jainism, jiva is the immortal essence or soul of a living organism (human, animal, fish or plant etc.) which survives physical death.[61] The concept of Ajiva in Jainism means "not soul", and represents matter (including body), time, space, non-motion and motion.[61] In Jainism, a Jiva is either samsari (mundane, caught in cycle of rebirths) or mukta (liberated).[62][63]

The concept of jiva in Jainism is similar to atman in Hinduism. However, some Hindu traditions differentiate between the two concepts, with jiva considered as individual self, while atman as that which is universal unchanging self that is present in all living beings and everything else as the metaphysical Brahman.[64][65][66] The latter is sometimes referred to as jiva-atman (a soul in a living body).[64] According to Brahma Kumaris, the soul is an eternal point of light.


The Quran, the holy book of Islam, distinguishes between the immortal Rūḥ (translated as spirit, consciousness, pneuma or "soul") and the mortal Nafs (translated as self, ego, psyche or "soul").[67][68] The immortal Rūḥ "drives" the mortal Nafs, which comprises temporal desires and perceptions necessary for living.[69] One of the passages in the Quran that mention Rûh occur in chapter 17 ("The Night Journey"), whereas a mention of Nafs occurs in Chapter 39 ("The Throngs"):

And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Rûh. Say, "The Rûh is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind has not been given of knowledge except a little.

— Quran 17:85

It is Allah that takes the Nafs at death: and those that die not (He takes it) during their sleep: then those on whom He has passed the Decree of death He keeps back (their Nafs from returning); but the rest He sends back for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who contemplate

— Qur'an 39:42


In Jainism, every living being, from plant or bacterium to human, has a soul and the concept forms the very basis of Jainism. According to Jainism, there is no beginning or end to the existence of soul. It is eternal in nature and changes its form until it attains liberation.

The soul (Jīva) is basically categorized in one of two ways based on its present state.[citation needed]

1. Liberated Souls – These are souls which have attained liberation (moksha) and never become part of the life cycle again.

2. Non-Liberated Souls – The souls of any living being which are stuck in the life cycle of 4 forms; Manushya Gati (Human Being), Tiryanch Gati (Any other living being), Dev Gati (Heaven) and Narak Gati (Hell).

Until the time the soul is liberated from the saṃsāra (cycle of repeated birth and death), it gets attached to one of these bodies based on the karma (actions) of the individual soul. Irrespective of which state the soul is in, it has got the same attributes and qualities. The difference between the liberated and non-liberated souls is that the qualities and attributes are manifested completely in case of siddha (liberated soul) as they have overcome all the karmic bondages whereas in case of non-liberated souls they are partially exhibited.

Concerning the Jain view of the soul, Virchand Gandhi said

the soul lives its own life, not for the purpose of the body, but the body lives for the purpose of the soul. If we believe that the soul is to be controlled by the body then soul misses its power.[70]


The Hebrew terms נפש nefesh (literally "living being"), רוח ruach (literally "wind"), נשמה neshamah (literally "breath"), חיה chayah (literally "life") and יחידה yechidah (literally "singularity") are used to describe the soul or spirit.[71]

In Judaism the soul was believed to be given by God to Adam as mentioned in Genesis,
Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

— Genesis 2:7

Judaism relates the quality of one's soul to one's performance of the commandments (mitzvot) and reaching higher levels of understanding, and thus closeness to God. A person with such closeness is called a tzadik. Therefore, Judaism embraces the commemoration of the day of one's death, nahala/Yahrtzeit and not the birthday[72] as a festivity of remembrance, for only toward the end of life's struggles, tests and challenges could human souls be judged and credited for righteousness.[73][74] Judaism places great importance on the study of the souls.[75]

Kabbalah and other mystic traditions go into greater detail into the nature of the soul. Kabbalah separates the soul into five elements, corresponding to the five worlds:

1. Nefesh, related to natural instinct.
2. Ruach, related to emotion and morality.
3. Neshamah, related to intellect and the awareness of God.
4. Chayah, considered a part of God, as it were.
5. Yechidah. This aspect is essentially one with God.

Kabbalah also proposed a concept of reincarnation, the gilgul. (See also nefesh habehamit the "animal soul".)


The Scientology view is that a person does not have a soul, it is a soul. A person is immortal, and may be reincarnated if they wish. The Scientology term for the soul is "thetan", derived from the Greek word "theta", symbolizing thought. Scientology counselling (called auditing) addresses the soul to improve abilities, both worldly and spiritual.


The belief in soul dualism found throughout most Austronesian shamanistic traditions. The reconstructed Proto-Austronesian word for the "body soul" is *nawa ("breath", "life", or "vital spirit"). It is located somewhere in the abdominal cavity, often in the liver or the heart (Proto-Austronesian *qaCay).[76][77] The "free soul" is located in the head. Its names are usually derived from Proto-Austronesian *qaNiCu ("ghost", "spirit [of the dead]"), which also apply to other non-human nature spirits. The "free soul" is also referred to in names that literally mean "twin" or "double", from Proto-Austronesian *duSa ("two").[78][79] A virtuous person is said to be one whose souls are in harmony with each other, while an evil person is one whose souls are in conflict.[80]

The "free soul" is said to leave the body and journey to the spirit world during sleep, trance-like states, delirium, insanity, and death. The duality is also seen in the healing traditions of Austronesian shamans, where illnesses are regarded as a "soul loss" and thus to heal the sick, one must "return" the "free soul" (which may have been stolen by an evil spirit or got lost in the spirit world) into the body. If the "free soul" can not be returned, the afflicted person dies or goes permanently insane.[81]

In some ethnic groups, there can also be more than two souls. Like among the Tagbanwa people, where a person is said to have six souls - the "free soul" (which is regarded as the "true" soul) and five secondary souls with various functions.[76]

Kalbo Inuit groups believe that a person has more than one type of soul. One is associated with respiration, the other can accompany the body as a shadow.[82] In some cases, it is connected to shamanistic beliefs among the various Inuit groups.[83] Also Caribou Inuit groups believed in several types of souls.[84]

The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning 'lost' parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone. The shaman also cleanses excess negative energies, which confuse or pollute the soul.


Sikhism considers soul (atma) to be part of God (Waheguru). Various hymns are cited from the holy book Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) that suggests this belief. "God is in the Soul and the Soul is in the God."[85] The same concept is repeated at various pages of the SGGS. For example: "The soul is divine; divine is the soul. Worship Him with love."[86] and "The soul is the Lord, and the Lord is the soul; contemplating the Shabad, the Lord is found."[87]

The atma or soul according to Sikhism is an entity or "spiritual spark" or "light" in our body because of which the body can sustain life. On the departure of this entity from the body, the body becomes lifeless – No amount of manipulations to the body can make the person make any physical actions. The soul is the ‘driver’ in the body. It is the roohu or spirit or atma, the presence of which makes the physical body alive.

Many religious and philosophical traditions support the view that the soul is the ethereal substance – a spirit; a non material spark – particular to a unique living being. Such traditions often consider the soul both immortal and innately aware of its immortal nature, as well as the true basis for sentience in each living being. The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly even within a given religion as to what happens to the soul after death. Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it possibly material.


According to Chinese traditions, every person has two types of soul called hun and po (魂 and 魄), which are respectively yang and yin. Taoism believes in ten souls, sanhunqipo (三魂七魄) "three hun and seven po".[88] A living being that loses any of them is said to have mental illness or unconsciousness, while a dead soul may reincarnate to a disability, lower desire realms, or may even be unable to reincarnate.


Charon (Greek) who guides dead souls to the Underworld. 4th century BCE.

In theological reference to the soul, the terms "life" and "death" are viewed as emphatically more definitive than the common concepts of "biological life" and "biological death". Because the soul is said to be transcendent of the material existence, and is said to have (potentially) eternal life, the death of the soul is likewise said to be an eternal death. Thus, in the concept of divine judgment, God is commonly said to have options with regard to the dispensation of souls, ranging from Heaven (i.e., angels) to hell (i.e., demons), with various concepts in between. Typically both Heaven and hell are said to be eternal, or at least far beyond a typical human concept of lifespan and time.

According to Louis Ginzberg, soul of Adam is the image of God.[89] Every soul of human also escapes from the body every night, rises up to heaven, and fetches new life thence for the body of man.[90]

Spirituality, New Age, and new religions

Brahma Kumaris

In Brahma Kumaris, human souls are believed to be incorporeal and eternal. God is considered to be the Supreme Soul, with maximum degrees of spiritual qualities, such as peace, love and purity.[91]


In Helena Blavatsky's Theosophy, the soul is the field of our psychological activity (thinking, emotions, memory, desires, will, and so on) as well as of the so-called paranormal or psychic phenomena (extrasensory perception, out-of-body experiences, etc.). However, the soul is not the highest, but a middle dimension of human beings. Higher than the soul is the spirit, which is considered to be the real self; the source of everything we call "good"—happiness, wisdom, love, compassion, harmony, peace, etc. While the spirit is eternal and incorruptible, the soul is not. The soul acts as a link between the material body and the spiritual self, and therefore shares some characteristics of both. The soul can be attracted either towards the spiritual or towards the material realm, being thus the "battlefield" of good and evil. It is only when the soul is attracted towards the spiritual and merges with the Self that it becomes eternal and divine.


Rudolf Steiner claimed classical trichotomic stages of soul development, which interpenetrated one another in consciousness:[92]

1. The "sentient soul", centering on sensations, drives, and passions, with strong conative (will) and emotional components;
2. The "intellectual" or "mind soul", internalizing and reflecting on outer experience, with strong affective (feeling) and cognitive (thinking) components; and
3. The "consciousness soul", in search of universal, objective truths.


In Surat Shabda Yoga, the soul is considered to be an exact replica and spark of the Divine. The purpose of Surat Shabd Yoga is to realize one's True Self as soul (Self-Realisation), True Essence (Spirit-Realisation) and True Divinity (God-Realisation) while living in the physical body.

Similarly, the spiritual teacher Meher Baba held that "Atma, or the soul, is in reality identical with Paramatma the Oversoul — which is one, infinite, and eternal...[and] [t]he sole purpose of creation is for the soul to enjoy the infinite state of the Oversoul consciously."[93]

Eckankar, founded by Paul Twitchell in 1965, defines Soul as the true self; the inner, most sacred part of each person.[94]

Philosophical views

The ancient Greeks used the word "ensouled" to represent the concept of being "alive", indicating that the earliest surviving western philosophical view believed that the soul was that which gave the body life.[95] The soul was considered the incorporeal or spiritual "breath" that animates (from the Latin, anima, cf. "animal") the living organism.

Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar by saying that the soul sleeps while the limbs are active, but when one is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near" in dreams.[96]

Erwin Rohde writes that an early pre-Pythagorean belief presented the soul as lifeless when it departed the body, and that it retired into Hades with no hope of returning to a body.[97]
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Re: Vitalism, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 1:40 am

Part 2 of 2

Socrates and Plato

Drawing on the words of his teacher Socrates, Plato considered the psyche to be the essence of a person, being that which decides how we behave. He considered this essence to be an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being. Plato says that even after death, the soul exists and is able to think. He believed that as bodies die, the soul is continually reborn in subsequent bodies. However, Aristotle believed that only one part of the soul was immortal namely the intellect (logos). The Platonic soul consists of three parts:[98]

1. the logos, or logistikon (mind, nous, or reason)
2. the thymos, or thumetikon (emotion, spiritedness, or masculine)
3. the eros, or epithumetikon (appetitive, desire, or feminine)

The parts are located in different regions of the body:

1. logos is located in the head, is related to reason and regulates the other part.
2. thymos is located near the chest region and is related to anger.
3. eros is located in the stomach and is related to one's desires.

Plato also compares the three parts of the soul or psyche to a societal caste system. According to Plato's theory, the three-part soul is essentially the same thing as a state's class system because, to function well, each part must contribute so that the whole functions well. Logos keeps the other functions of the soul regulated.


Aristotle (384–322 BCE) defined the soul, or Psūchê (ψυχή), as the "first actuality" of a naturally organized body,[99] and argued against its separate existence from the physical body. In Aristotle's view, the primary activity, or full actualization, of a living thing constitutes its soul. For example, the full actualization of an eye, as an independent organism, is to see (its purpose or final cause).[100] Another example is that the full actualization of a human being would be living a fully functional human life in accordance with reason (which he considered to be a faculty unique to humanity).[101] For Aristotle, the soul is the organization of the form and matter of a natural being which allows it to strive for its full actualization. This organization between form and matter is necessary for any activity, or functionality, to be possible in a natural being. Using an artifact (non-natural being) as an example, a house is a building for human habituation, but for a house to be actualized requires the material (wood, nails, bricks, etc.) necessary for its actuality (i.e. being a fully functional house). However, this does not imply that a house has a soul. In regards to artifacts, the source of motion that is required for their full actualization is outside of themselves (for example, a builder builds a house). In natural beings, this source of motion is contained within the being itself.[102] Aristotle elaborates on this point when he addresses the faculties of the soul.

The various faculties of the soul, such as nutrition, movement (peculiar to animals), reason (peculiar to humans), sensation (special, common, and incidental) and so forth, when exercised, constitute the "second" actuality, or fulfillment, of the capacity to be alive. For example, someone who falls asleep, as opposed to someone who falls dead, can wake up and live their life, while the latter can no longer do so.

Aristotle identified three hierarchical levels of natural beings: plants, animals, and people, having three different degrees of soul: Bios (life), Zoë (animate life), and Psuchë (self-conscious life). For these groups, he identified three corresponding levels of soul, or biological activity: the nutritive activity of growth, sustenance and reproduction which all life shares (Bios); the self-willed motive activity and sensory faculties, which only animals and people have in common (Zoë); and finally "reason", of which people alone are capable (Pseuchë).

Aristotle's discussion of the soul is in his work, De Anima (On the Soul). Although mostly seen as opposing Plato in regard to the immortality of the soul, a controversy can be found in relation to the fifth chapter of the third book: In this text both interpretations can be argued for, soul as a whole can be deemed mortal, and a part called "active intellect" or "active mind" is immortal and eternal.[103] Advocates exist for both sides of the controversy, but it has been understood that there will be permanent disagreement about its final conclusions, as no other Aristotelian text contains this specific point, and this part of De Anima is obscure.[104] Further, Aristotle states that the soul helps humans find the truth and understanding the true purpose or role of the soul is extremely difficult.[105]

Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis

Following Aristotle, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Ibn al-Nafis, an Arab physician, further elaborated upon the Aristotelian understanding of the soul and developed their own theories on the soul. They both made a distinction between the soul and the spirit, and the Avicennian doctrine on the nature of the soul was influential among the Scholastics. Some of Avicenna's views on the soul include the idea that the immortality of the soul is a consequence of its nature, and not a purpose for it to fulfill. In his theory of "The Ten Intellects", he viewed the human soul as the tenth and final intellect.

While he was imprisoned, Avicenna wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantial nature of the soul.[106] He told his readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that in this scenario one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance. This argument was later refined and simplified by René Descartes in epistemic terms, when he stated: "I can abstract from the supposition of all external things, but not from the supposition of my own consciousness."[107]

Avicenna generally supported Aristotle's idea of the soul originating from the heart, whereas Ibn al-Nafis rejected this idea and instead argued that the soul "is related to the entirety and not to one or a few organs". He further criticized Aristotle's idea whereby every unique soul requires the existence of a unique source, in this case the heart. al-Nafis concluded that "the soul is related primarily neither to the spirit nor to any organ, but rather to the entire matter whose temperament is prepared to receive that soul," and he defined the soul as nothing other than "what a human indicates by saying "I".[108]

Thomas Aquinas

Following Aristotle (whom he referred to as "the Philosopher") and Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) understood the soul to be the first actuality of the living body. Consequent to this, he distinguished three orders of life: plants, which feed and grow; animals, which add sensation to the operations of plants; and humans, which add intellect to the operations of animals.

Concerning the human soul, his epistemological theory required that, since the knower becomes what he knows, the soul is definitely not corporeal—if it is corporeal when it knows what some corporeal thing is, that thing would come to be within it.[109] Therefore, the soul has an operation which does not rely on a body organ, and therefore the soul can exist without a body. Furthermore, since the rational soul of human beings is a subsistent form and not something made of matter and form, it cannot be destroyed in any natural process.[110] The full argument for the immortality of the soul and Aquinas' elaboration of Aristotelian theory is found in Question 75 of the First Part of the Summa Theologica.

Immanuel Kant

In his discussions of rational psychology, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) identified the soul as the "I" in the strictest sense, and argued that the existence of inner experience can neither be proved nor disproved.

We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be recognized from materiality.

It is from the "I", or soul, that Kant proposes transcendental rationalization, but cautions that such rationalization can only determine the limits of knowledge if it is to remain practical.[111]

Philosophy of mind

Gilbert Ryle's ghost in the machine argument, which is a rejection of Descartes' mind–body dualism, can provide a contemporary understanding of the soul/mind, and the problem concerning its connection to the brain/body.[112]

James Hillman

Psychologist James Hillman's archetypal psychology is an attempt to restore the concept of the soul, which Hillman viewed as the "self-sustaining and imagining substrate" upon which consciousness rests. Hillman described the soul as that "which makes meaning possible, [deepens] events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern", as well as "a special relation with death".[113] Departing from the Cartesian dualism "between outer tangible reality and inner states of mind", Hillman takes the Neoplatonic stance[114] that there is a "third, middle position" in which soul resides.[115] Archetypal psychology acknowledges this third position by attuning to, and often accepting, the archetypes, dreams, myths, and even psychopathologies through which, in Hillman's view, soul expresses itself.


The current scientific consensus across all fields is that there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of soul in the traditional sense. Many modern scientists, such as Julien Musolino, hold that the mind is merely a complex machine that operates on the same physical laws as all other objects in the universe.[116] According to Musolino, there is currently no scientific evidence whatsoever to support the existence of the soul;[116] he claims there is also considerable evidence that seems to indicate that souls do not exist.[116]


Neuroscience as an interdisciplinary field, and its branch of cognitive neuroscience particularly, operates under the ontological assumption of physicalism. In other words, it assumes—in order to perform its science—that only the fundamental phenomena studied by physics exist. Thus, neuroscience seeks to understand mental phenomena within the framework according to which human thought and behavior are caused solely by physical processes taking place inside the brain, and it operates by the way of reductionism by seeking an explanation for the mind in terms of brain activity.[117][118]

To study the mind in terms of the brain several methods of functional neuroimaging are used to study the neuroanatomical correlates of various cognitive processes that constitute the mind. The evidence from brain imaging indicates that all processes of the mind have physical correlates in brain function.[119] However, such correlational studies cannot determine whether neural activity plays a causal role in the occurrence of these cognitive processes (correlation does not imply causation) and they cannot determine if the neural activity is either necessary or sufficient for such processes to occur. Identification of causation, and of necessary and sufficient conditions requires explicit experimental manipulation of that activity. If manipulation of brain activity changes consciousness, then a causal role for that brain activity can be inferred.[120][121] Two of the most common types of manipulation experiments are loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments. In a loss-of-function (also called "necessity") experiment, a part of the nervous system is diminished or removed in an attempt to determine if it is necessary for a certain process to occur, and in a gain-of-function (also called "sufficiency") experiment, an aspect of the nervous system is increased relative to normal.[122] Manipulations of brain activity can be performed with direct electrical brain stimulation, magnetic brain stimulation using transcranial magnetic stimulation, psychopharmacological manipulation, optogenetic manipulation, and by studying the symptoms of brain damage (case studies) and lesions. In addition, neuroscientists are also investigating how the mind develops with the development of the brain.[123]


Physicist Sean M. Carroll has written that the idea of a soul is incompatible with quantum field theory (QFT). He writes that for a soul to exist: "Not only is new physics required, but dramatically new physics. Within QFT, there can't be a new collection of 'spirit particles' and 'spirit forces' that interact with our regular atoms, because we would have detected them in existing experiments."[124]

Some theorists have invoked quantum indeterminism as an explanatory mechanism for possible soul/brain interaction, but neuroscientist Peter Clarke found errors with this viewpoint, noting there is no evidence that such processes play a role in brain function; Clarke concluded that a Cartesian soul has no basis from quantum physics.[125][need quotation to verify]


Some parapsychologists have attempted to establish, by scientific experiment, whether a soul separate from the brain exists, as is more commonly defined in religion rather than as a synonym of psyche or mind. Milbourne Christopher (1979) and Mary Roach (2010) have argued that none of the attempts by parapsychologists have yet succeeded.[126][127]

Weight of the soul

In 1901 Duncan MacDougall conducted an experiment in which he made weight measurements of patients as they died. He claimed that there was weight loss of varying amounts at the time of death; he concluded the soul weighed 21 grams.[128][129] The physicist Robert L. Park has written that MacDougall's experiments "are not regarded today as having any scientific merit" and the psychologist Bruce Hood wrote that "because the weight loss was not reliable or replicable, his findings were unscientific."[130][131]

See also

• Ancient Egyptian concept of the soul
• Ekam
• History of the location of the soul
• Kami
• Metaphysical naturalism
• Mind–body problem
• The Over-Soul (essay)
• Paramatman (or Oversoul)
• Philosophical zombie
• Self
• Self-awareness
• Shade (mythology)
• Soul dualism
• Vitalism


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109. Aquinas, Thomas. "Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate"(in Latin). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
110. Aquinas, Thomas. "Super Boetium De Trinitate" (in Latin). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
111. Bishop, Paul (2000). Synchronicity and Intellectual Intuition in Kant, Swedenborg, and Jung. US: The Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 262–67. ISBN 978-0-7734-7593-9.
112. Ryles, Gilbert (1949). The Concept of Mind. University Of Chicago Press.
113. Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York: HarperPerennial. p. 21.
114. Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York: HarperPerennial. p. 112.
115. Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York: HarperPerennial. p. 121.
116. Musolino, Julien (2015). The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain from Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 21–38. ISBN 978-1-61614-962-8.
117. O. Carter Snead. "Cognitive Neuroscience and the Future of Punishment Archived 5 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine" (2010).
118. Kandel, ER; Schwartz JH; Jessell TM; Siegelbaum SA; Hudspeth AJ. "Principles of Neural Science, Fifth Edition" (2012).
119. Andrea Eugenio Cavanna, Andrea Nani, Hal Blumenfeld, Steven Laureys. "Neuroimaging of Consciousness" (2013).
120. Farah, Martha J.; Murphy, Nancey (February 2009). "Neuroscience and the Soul". Science. 323 (5918): 1168. doi:10.1126/science.323.5918.1168a. PMID 19251609.
121. Max Velmans, Susan Schneider. "The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness" (2008). p. 560.
122. Matt Carter, Jennifer C. Shieh. "Guide to Research Techniques in Neuroscience" (2009).
123. Squire, L. et al. "Fundamental Neuroscience, 4th edition" (2012). Chapter 43.
124. Carroll, Sean M.. (2011). "Physics and the Immortality of the Soul" Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Scientific American. Retrieved 2014-10-11.
125. Clarke, Peter. (2014). Neuroscience, Quantum Indeterminism and the Cartesian Soul Archived 10 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Brain and cognition 84: 109–17.
126. Milbourne Christopher. (1979). Search for the Soul: An Insider's Report on the Continuing Quest by Psychics and Scientists for Evidence of Life After Death. Thomas Y. Crowell, Publishers.
127. Mary Roach. (2010). Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Canongate Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84767-080-9
128. MacDougall, Duncan (1907). "The Soul: Hypothesis Concerning Soul Substance Together with Experimental Evidence of the Existence of Such Substance". American Medicine. New Series. 2: 240–43.
129. "How much does the soul weights?". Archived from the original on 28 April 2016.
130. Park, Robert L. (2009). Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science. Princeton University Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-691-13355-3
131. Hood, Bruce. (2009). Supersense: From Superstition to Religion – The Brain Science of Belief. Constable. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-84901-030-6

Further reading

• Batchelor, Stephen. (1998). Buddhism Without Beliefs. Bloomsbury Publishing.
• Bremmer, Jan (1983). The Early Greek Concept of the Soul (PDF). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-03131-6. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
• Chalmers, David. J. (1996). The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Christopher, Milbourne. (1979). Search For The Soul: An Insider's Report On The Continuing Quest By Psychics & Scientists For Evidence Of Life After Death. Thomas Y. Crowell, Publishers.
• Clarke, Peter (2014). "Neuroscience, Quantum Indeterminism and the Cartesian Soul". Brain and Cognition. 84 (1): 109–17. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2013.11.008. PMID 24355546.
• Hood, Bruce. (2009). Supersense: From Superstition to Religion – The Brain Science of Belief. Constable. ISBN 978-1-84901-030-6
• McGraw, John J. (2004). Brain & Belief: An Exploration of the Human Soul. Aegis Press.
• Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. (2015). The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-8108-8677-3
• Park, Robert L. (2009). Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-13355-3
• Rohde, Erwin. (1925). Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality Among the Greeks, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1925; reprinted by Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-22563-9.
• Ryle, Gilbert. (1949) The Concept of Mind, London: Hutchinson.
• Spenard, Michael (2011) "Dueling with Dualism: the forlorn quest for the immaterial soul", essay. An historical account of mind-body duality and a comprehensive conceptual and empirical critique on the position. ISBN 978-0-578-08288-2
• Swinburne, Richard. (1997). The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Leibowitz, Aryeh. (2018). The Neshama: A Study of the Human Soul. Feldheim Publishers. ISBN 1-68025-338-7

External links

• Etymology of Soul
• Quantum Theory Won’t Save The Soul
• What Science Really Says About the Soul by Stephen Cave
• Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Ancient Theories of the Soul
• The soul in Judaism at
• The Old Testament Concept of the Soul by Heinrich J. Vogel]
• Body, Soul and Spirit Article in the Journal of Biblical Accuracy
• Is Another Human Living Inside You?
• Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Soul" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
• "The Soul", BBC Radio 4 discussion with Richard Sorabji, Ruth Padel and Martin Palmer (In Our Time, June 6, 2002)
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Re: Vitalism, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Apr 28, 2019 2:23 am

by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/27/19



Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is an ancient Greek word for "breath", and in a religious context for "spirit" or "soul".[1][2] It has various technical meanings for medical writers and philosophers of classical antiquity, particularly in regard to physiology, and is also used in Greek translations of ruach רוח in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Greek New Testament. In classical philosophy, it is distinguishable from psyche (ψυχή), which originally meant "breath of life", but is regularly translated as "spirit" or most often "soul".[3]

Classical antiquity


Pneuma, "air in motion, breath, wind," is equivalent in the material monism of Anaximenes to aer (ἀήρ, "air") as the element from which all else originated. This usage is the earliest extant occurrence of the term in philosophy.[4] A quotation from Anaximenes observes that "just as our soul (psyche), being air (aer), holds us together, so do breath (pneuma) and air (aer) encompass the whole world." In this early usage, aer and pneuma are synonymous.[5]

Ancient Greek medical theory

In ancient Greek medicine, pneuma is the form of circulating air necessary for the systemic functioning of vital organs. It is the material that sustains consciousness in a body. According to Diocles and Praxagoras, the psychic pneuma mediates between the heart, regarded as the seat of Mind in some physiological theories of ancient medicine, and the brain.[6]

The disciples of Hippocrates explained the maintenance of vital heat to be the function of the breath within the organism. Around 300 BC, Praxagoras discovered the distinction between the arteries and the veins. In the corpse arteries are empty; hence, in the light of these preconceptions they were declared to be vessels for conveying pneuma to the different parts of the body. A generation afterwards, Erasistratus made this the basis of a new theory of diseases and their treatment. The pneuma, inhaled from the outside air, rushes through the arteries till it reaches the various centres, especially the brain and the heart, and there causes thought and organic movement.[7]


The "connate pneuma" of Aristotle is the warm mobile "air" that in the sperm transmits the capacity for locomotion and certain sensations to the offspring. These movements derive from the soul of the parent and are embodied by the pneuma as a material substance in semen. Pneuma is necessary for life, and as in medical theory is involved with the "vital heat," but the Aristotelian pneuma is less precisely and thoroughly defined than that of the Stoics.[3]

Stoic pneuma

In Stoic philosophy, pneuma is the concept of the "breath of life," a mixture of the elements air (in motion) and fire (as warmth).[8] For the Stoics, pneuma is the active, generative principle that organizes both the individual and the cosmos.[9] In its highest form, pneuma constitutes the human soul (psychê), which is a fragment of the pneuma that is the soul of God (Zeus). As a force that structures matter, it exists even in inanimate objects.[10] In his Introduction to the 1964 book Meditations, the Anglican priest Maxwell Staniforth wrote:

Cleanthes, wishing to give more explicit meaning to Zeno's 'creative fire', had been the first to hit upon the term pneuma, or 'spirit', to describe it. Like fire, this intelligent 'spirit' was imagined as a tenuous substance akin to a current of air or breath, but essentially possessing the quality of warmth; it was immanent in the universe as God, and in man as the soul and life-giving principle.[11]

Judaism and Christianity

In Judaic and Christian usage, pneuma is a common word for "spirit" in the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament. At John 3:5, for example, pneuma is the Greek word translated into English as "spirit": "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit (pneuma), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." In some translations such as the King James version, however, pneuma is then translated as "wind" in verse eight, followed by the rendering "Spirit": "The wind (pneuma) bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (pneuma)."

Philo, a 1st-century Hellenistic Jewish philosopher commented on the use of Πνοή, rather than πνευμα, in the Septuagint translation of Genesis 2:7. Philo explains that, in his view, pneuma is for the light breathing of human men while the stronger pnoē was used for the divine Spirit.[12]

See also

• The Pneumatic or "spiritual human" of Gnosticism
• The concept of Christian pneumatology
• Pneuma akatharton, unclean spirit
• Pneuma (journal), subtitled "The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies"
• Prana
• Rūḥ


1. Entry πνεῦμα, in Liddell-Scott-Jones, A Greek–English Lexicon, online version.
2. See pp.190, 195, 205 of François, Alexandre (2008), "Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages", in Vanhove, Martine (ed.), From Polysemy to Semantic change: Towards a Typology of Lexical Semantic Associations, Studies in Language Companion Series, 106, Amsterdam, New York: Benjamins, pp. 163–215.
3. Furley, D.J. (1999). From Aristotle to Augustine. History of Philosophy. Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-415-06002-8. LCCN 98008543.
4. Silvia Benso, "The Breathing of the Air: Presocratic Echoes in Levinas," in Levinas and the Ancients (Indiana University Press, 2008), p. 13.
5. Benso, "The Breathing of the Air," p. 14.
6. Philip J. van der Eijk, "The Heart, the Brain, the Blood and the pneuma: Hippocrates, Diocles and Aristotle on the Location of Cognitive Processes," in Medicine and Philosophy in Classical Antiquity: Doctors and Philosophers on Nature, Soul, Health and Disease (Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 131–132 et passim. ISBN 0-521-81800-1
7. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hicks, Robert Drew (1911). "Stoics" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 942–951.
8. "Stoicism," Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Taylor & Francis, 1998), p. 145.
9. David Sedley, "Stoic Physics and Metaphysics," The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, p. 388.
10. John Sellars, Stoicism (University of California Press, 2006), pp. 98-104.
11. Marcus Aurelius (1964). Meditations. London: Penguin Books. p. 25. ISBN 0-14044140-9.
12. Bromiley, Geoffrey William; Kittel, Gerhard (1967). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-2247-5.

External links

• The dictionary definition of pneuma at Wiktionary
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