• synonyms


[vahyt-l-iz-uh m]
  1. the doctrine that phenomena are only partly controlled by mechanical forces, and are in some measure self-determining.Compare dynamism(def 1), mechanism(def 8).
  2. Biology. a doctrine that ascribes the functions of a living organism to a vital principle distinct from chemical and physical forces.
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Origin of vitalism

First recorded in 1815–25; vital + -ism
Related formsvi·tal·ist, noun, adjectivevi·tal·is·tic, adjectivevi·tal·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for vitalism

Historical Examples of vitalism

  • There may be many who will regard the fact of equifinality as a proof of vitalism.

    The Science and Philosophy of the Organism

    Hans Driesch

  • This, of course, is vitalism, and vitalism in its extreme or animistic form.

  • It is a history that begins with vitalism and ends with mechanism.

    Religion & Sex

    Chapman Cohen

  • Driesch has tried to show that we are absolutely not able to Vitalism.

  • The unknowable has been questioned: hypotheses have been shaken: vitalism and idealism have been proclaimed.

    Goblins and Pagodas

    John Gould Fletcher

British Dictionary definitions for vitalism


  1. the philosophical doctrine that the phenomena of life cannot be explained in purely mechanical terms because there is something immaterial which distinguishes living from inanimate matterCompare dynamism, mechanism
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Derived Formsvitalist, noun, adjectivevitalistic, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012