This book demonstrates how and why vitalism—the idea that life cannot be explained by the principles of mechanism—matters now. Vitalism resists closure and reductionism in the life sciences while simultaneously addressing the object of life itself. The aim of this collection is to consider the questions that vitalism makes it possible to ask: questions about the role and status of life across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities and questions about contingency, indeterminacy, relationality and change. All have special importance now, as the concepts of complexity, artificial life and artificial intelligence, information theory, and cybernetics become increasingly significant in more and more fields of activity.

Inventive Life: Approaches to the New Vitalism

Inventive life: Approaches to the new vitalism
MariamFraser, SarahKember and CeliaLury

[I]n vain we force the living into this or that one of our moulds. All the moulds crack. They are too narrow, above all too rigid, for what we try to put into them. (Bergson, 1911: x)

This introduction addresses how and why vitalism – the idea, originating in the 18th and 19th centuries, that life cannot be explained by the principles of mechanism – matters now. It does so by considering what we will call vital processes. One aim is thus to think about process, that is, what is distinctive about process as a mode of being. A second aim is to address some of the ways in which ...

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