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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.

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 ?
However, she was a theistic vitalist (one who believed in the existence of a created animating spirit or immaterial soul that is different in nature from the material body yet related to it), as evidenced by a cumulative consideration of various journal entries.
Butler suggests that Polidori frames the question as a vitalist while Mary Shelley frames the issue as a materialist (xxii-xxiii).
Areas of natural philosophy not satisfied by mater and motion explanation, such as chemistry, life sciences, and medicine, were among the first to develop an Enlightenment Vitalist interpretation.
By the 1840s, the vitalist Philip did a complete turnaround to Prout's viewpoint, even claiming that the nervous system was essentially chemical.
Both National Socialists and Jung expressed this symbolic and ritualistic transportation to mythical, transhistorical time in the language of the living organism, as a vitalist healing and rebirth of the Volk (Nazis) or the psyche (Jung).
At one end of the ideological spectrum, Bergson's emphasis upon dynamic and open-ended change endeared him to many progressives, including George Bernard Shaw, who incorporated Bergson into his own vision of evolutionary progress, and the young Walter Lippmann, who adapted Bergson's metaphysics to the politics of the progressive era, declaring that we must discard the notion of government as a static mechanism and reconceive it along vitalist lines as "a process of continual creation, an unceasing invention of forms to meet constantly changing needs" (13).
A leading critic of the role of chemistry in medical education was Armand Trousseau (1801-1867), a prominent clinician and convinced vitalist.
Prout was a powerful advocate of the value of chemistry in physiology (32), but his repeated calls for physiologists to become chemists were met with strong objections by vitalists who could see no place for chemistry in the study of the vital functions.
At one extreme are the vitalists, who believe that all human life is fully valuable, regardless of its quality.
Mechanists and vitalists fought for hegemony of the field.
Those individuals who believe that "quality of life" has no moral relevance to medical decisionmaking, whether uncompromising vitalists or semantic gameplayers, may see QL = NE x (H + S) as an irreverent, even threatening, exercise in cost-benefit analysis.
By tracing the term's etymological variants, whose Greek root, hyle, means both matter and wood, McColley develops an ingenious theory that "Christian vitalist poets retain a hylozoic sense of the origins of matter and the materials of language in their words and forms" (110).