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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]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


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.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


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.
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


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.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


a theory which postulates that biological phenomena cannot be expressed solely in physical and chemical terms.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005

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
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References in periodicals archive ?
There was no question now of a destroyed vital principle. When Pasteur knocked the neck off the flask, microorganisms developed in the meat extract at once.
Religious freedom is a vital principle. It's so vital, in fact, that recent attempts to convert it into a vehicle for rank forms of discrimination are highly offensive.
One of the most repeated axioms of Turkish political culture is the centuries-old saying, "Empower the individual so that the state becomes powerful." With such a vital principle in mind, a society should not try to gain esteem from the death of its citizens rather than celebrating life.
Europeans rose to defend a vital principle; free speech, however vicious, retains a place in any democracy.
In passing Aristotle also creates room in this passage (737a4-5), as he already did in 1.21.731a8-15, for the very special kind of generation which he will discuss in Generation of Animals 3.11, namely the generation of (inferior) living creatures, not on the basis of sexual reproduction, but by inclusion of a vital principle in a pneuma-containing natural residue.
But Roy Clare, chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) had praised Sue Charteris's report which "supports the vital principle that changes to library provision should only take place after strategic thinking and proper process that takes account of public need and wishes." Council leader Steve Foulkes, who has talked of the need to think radically about the future of libraries over the last year, said he welcomed the new consultation, and pledged Wirral would take part.
Life does not result from an organism when it has been built up, but the vital principle builds up the organism of its own body.
Few portly Catholics consider ordering a Big Mac and double fries a matter sufficiently grave to separate them from God or to destroy the vital principle of charity in their hearts.
Cheney insists it's a matter of "vital principle." The Bush administration - any administration, for that matter - must be able to conduct private consultations that are exempt from public - and congressional - scrutiny.
The Green Party MEP lamented the fact that the Commission's definition of what is meant by "technological needs" is extremely inadequate and called for due regard to be given to the vital principle of transparency and urged more labelling-related measures.