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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]


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.

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 ?
Driesch: The History and Theory of Vitalism. Revised and in part re-written for the English edition, authorised Translation by C.K.
If a biologist wishes to think philosophically, he should realize, with the help of Thomas, that the terms in which ontological reduction are usually put require that he choose between vitalism and reductionism, but that these are not the only possible choices.
(5) While vitalism is part of a complex cultural history that stretches back to the classical era, it is arguably most commonly associated with the work of nineteenth-century philosopher Henri Bergson.
As vitalism resembles a sort of Pantheism that posits the cosmic life's identity with the universe, Pan or Faunus is a nature spirit animating all of creation.
Clinton Godart's contribution, "Tezuka's Circle of Life: Vitalism, Evolution, and Buddhism," expands these possibilities outside their immediate frame, connecting Knighton's sociological concerns to broader philosophical questions of life itself.
There were four schools of thought in ancient Greece on 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 called his planned terrorist attack "necessary." 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.