Welcome to the Vitalism learning project.

"Three Butterfly" - can the properties of living things be accounted for by their material components?

Content summaryEdit

Vitalism is the idea that living organisms cannot be entirely explained in terms of the same forces and materials that account for the behavior of non-living objects. According to vitalism, there must be some additional "vital force" present in living organisms that distinguishes the living state from the non-living.

Vitalism is a natural philosophical position for humans who have no knowledge of the details of physical matter. Recognition of the molecular basis of life allows for a materialistic philosophical position which adopts the hypothesis that the same physical laws govern both living and non-living objects.


This learning project offers learning activities that review the history of vitalism as a theory of the living state.

Concepts to learn include how conceptual understanding of living organisms has changed through time and how modern science's approach to the study of life differs from pre-scientific ideas about life.

Learning materialsEdit

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  • Read about vitalism (see the section above)
  • Discuss vitalism (see next section)



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