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[vahyt-l-iz-uh m] /ˈvaɪt lˌɪz əm/
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).
Biology. a doctrine that ascribes the functions of a living organism to a vital principle distinct from chemical and physical forces.
1815-25; vital + -ism
Related forms
vitalist, noun, adjective
vitalistic, adjective
vitalistically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for vitalist


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 matter Compare dynamism, mechanism
Derived Forms
vitalist, noun, adjective
vitalistic, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Article for vitalist


school of scientific thought-the germ of which dates from Aristotle-that attempts (in opposition to mechanism and organicism) to explain the nature of life as resulting from a vital force peculiar to living organisms and different from all other forces found outside living things. This force is held to control form and development and to direct the activities of the organism. Vitalism has lost prestige as the chemical and physical nature of more and more vital phenomena have been shown.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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