Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


The theory that animal functions are dependent upon a special form of energy or force, the vital force, distinct from the physical forces.
Synonym(s): vis vitae, vis vitalis
[L. vitalis, pertaining to life]


The theory or doctrine that life processes arise from or contain a nonmaterial vital principle and cannot be explained entirely as physical and chemical phenomena.

vi′tal·ist adj. & n.
vi′tal·is′tic adj.


A philosophical stance, which is unprovable by currently available techniques, that animal functions hinge on a vital force distinct from physically measurable forces. Vitalism is the central theme of most forms of alternative healthcare, which holds that all humans have a soul or spirit that continues to exist after death as a form of energy or vital force.


Alternative medicine Referring to a system of health care which is based on the belief that the nervous system is the most important determinant of a person's state of health; according to chiropractic
theory, most diseases are the result of 'nerve interference,' caused by spinal subluxations, which are said to respond to spinal manipulation; abnormal nerve function may result in musculoskeletal derangements and aggravate pathologic processes in other body regions or organs. See Chiropractor, Medically-oriented chiropractic, Mixed chiropractic, Network chiropractic, Straight chiropractic, Subluxation-based chiropractic. Cf Massage therapy, Osteopathic medicine.
Principles of chiropractic
Vitalism The body has an intrinsic ability to heal itself; the chiropractor's role is to facilitate the body's ability to restore the vital or life force–termed innate intelligence, to its optimum level, and therefore be allowed to heal itself
Holism All organs and systems function as one interconnected unit; anything that affects the nervous system has widespread effects elsewhere in the body
Correction of subluxation Subluxation is defined as a malalignment of the vertebrae that causes pressure on the spinal cord, nerve roots, and nerves; chiropractics have labelled this subluxation-induced pressure on nerves 'nerve reflex'–which has a different connotation for neurologists


The now largely abandoned philosophical idea that some kind of postulated ‘life force’ is necessary before any biological entity can be said to be living. The growth of molecular cell biology in recent years has progressively reduced the need for such a notion as it progressively explains the phenomena of life in physicochemical terms.


a theory which postulates that biological phenomena cannot be expressed solely in physical and chemical terms.

vitalism (vīˑ·tl·i·zm),

n doctrine that a nonphysical energy permeates all living organisms and that gives them the property of life. See also prana and qi.

Patient discussion about vitalism

Q. Is nutrition vital for healthy hair growth? I am engaged to a girl 3 months back and our marriage is on coming month. I was above heavens when my girl told me that I am handsome. Now I am afraid whether she will hate me soon bcoz, for the past few days I have had drastic hair fall. I feel to be taking less nutrition diet. Is nutrition vital for healthy hair growth? I have dreamt my life with that beautiful angel and never want to lose on that. She can definitely add face value to my happy life. Please guide me to marry my beautiful girl.


Q. I was shocked to note that genes play a vital role in building muscles Is this possible? I am , 20 years old. I am always dreaming to build muscle like my favorite hero who maintains 8 abs. Anybody can dream but to live that dream is a difficult task. Out of curiosity, I had discussed my desire to build muscles with my friends. But I was shocked to note that genes play a vital role in building muscles. My family doesn’t have a history of muscles and this fact has put me in to a difficult situation. Is this possible…If so, how can I live my dream? If the family doesn’t have a history of muscle growth, then what happens to the generation which follows them? I need a positive feedback to my query……

A. there's a genetic potential for fitness, like there is a genetic connection and potential for inelegance. but no matter how smart are your parents- if you won't study you won't live that potential, and some one who doesn't have that genetic ability and will study- will be better. the same thing with physical fitness.

More discussions about vitalism
References in periodicals archive ?
Griffiths also posits this possibility of applying Reill's conception of Enlightenment vitalism to Erasmus Darwin's works in "The Intuitions of Analogy in Erasmus Darwin's Poetics," SEL 51, no.
Vitalism, like mechanistic investigation, did not suddenly arise today.
Rather than argue that Machen's novel could make no other intervention into the debate between vitalism and materialism than to declare it un-decidable, I would like to give the author more credit than that, and take seriously the idea that the catastrophe for life hinted at by fungal materialism necessitates a more sophisticated response, one more complicated than merely positing the impossibility of a decision between the two paradigms of life.
In this vitalism converge scientific and religious discourses, the strict materialism of Darwinian evolution on the one hand and the spiritual monism of Inoue Enryo (1858-1919), for example, on the other.
There were four basic schools of thought in ancient Greece regarding human-animal relationships: animism, mechanism, vitalism, and anthropocentrism.
What Foucault has inherited from his age--and mostly from French phenomenologically-oriented philosophical historiography, which has been under the spell of Heidegger's powerful reinvention of ontology--is a peculiar blindness, the impossibility to ascertain the radical alternative between transcendentalism (as the philosophical mainstream of modern Western philosophy) and vitalism (as the principal challenge to this Kantian reign).
The philosophies of vitalism and holism acknowledge that there are subtle and apparently immeasurable aspects to health.
The fifth chapter takes the measure of nonsubjective theories of value, including those based on transcendence, idealism, ontology, intellectualism, vitalism, needs, action, labor, and practicality.
Crews' summary of the Freudian enterprise is devastating: "Psychoanalysis was a quilt whose patches were assembled from such diverse sources as animal magnetism, Victorian sexology, materialist determinism, Romantic vitalism, reflex neurology, the Lamarckian doctrine of heredity .
Wells' The Time Machine and the end of literature, the evolution of humanity and the oppressions of Darwinism in French postwar fiction, Nietzsche's philosophic vitalism and Darwin's theory of evolution, and evolutionary psychology as a heuristic in literary studies.
He seems to have ended his pursuit of "revolution" as a peculiar kind of rightist, one we have seen before in the fascist and Nazi movements of the 20th century, when the far right's celebration of heroic vitalism developed into a cult of warmongering, a revolt against the softness of bourgeois societies.
The theme of Vitalism bridges the two artists, inspiring both to imbue sculpture with an animating force which makes abstract form and inert materials appear to be living organic matter itself.