Definitions for elan vital

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Princeton's WordNet

  1. life force, vital force, vitality, elan vital(noun)

    (biology) a hypothetical force (not physical or chemical) once thought by Henri Bergson to cause the evolution and development of organisms

Freebase

  1. Élan vital

    Élan vital was coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, in which he addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Elan vital was translated in the English edition as "vital impetus", but is usually translated by his detractors as "vital force". It is a hypothetical explanation for evolution and development of organisms, which Bergson linked closely with consciousness. It was believed by others that this essence could be harvested and embedded into an inanimate substance and activated with electricity, perhaps taking literally another of Bergson's metaphorical descriptions, the "current of life". The British biologist Julian Huxley remarked that Bergson’s élan vital is no better an explanation of life than is explaining the operation of a railway engine by its élan locomotif. The same epistemological fallacy is parodied in Molière's Le Malade imaginaire, where a quack "answers" the question of "Why does opium cause sleep?" with "Because of its soporific power." Huxley happily used the term élan vital in a more metaphorical sense, as may be seen from the following excerpt:

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