Revisiting the Logical Empiricist Criticisms of Vitalism

Bohang Chen


Vitalism claims that biological organisms are governed by nonmaterial agents like entelechies. The received view today rejects vitalism by presupposing metaphysical materialism (or physicalism). Metaphysical materialism maintains that the world is ultimately material (or physical), and it, therefore, repudiates the existence of nonmaterial entelechies. However, this marks a shift compared with the arguments against vitalism developed by logical empiricists, who were indifferent to metaphysical issues and were only concerned with logical and empirical matters in the sciences. Logical empiricists rejected the concept of the entelechy (vitalism), because vital laws confirmed by biological phenomena were unavailable; in contrast, they accepted the concept of the atom (materialism), since it constituted physical laws and was therefore associated with verifiable results in modern physics.


Vitalism; Logical Empiricism

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