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Vitalism And Vitalist Philosophy Research Assignment (Essay Sample)


The vitalist philosophy was the perspective which predominated in scientific thinking in the 19th century and was used to explain the difference between living and inert matter. With the rise of the scientific revolution and the emergence of biomedicine the vitalist philosophy lost popularity. What is vitalism and the vitalist philosophy? How is the vitalist philosophy relevant to CAM (Chinese and Alternative medicine) practitioners today? Discuss the significance of this philosophical approach to living systems in relation to naturopathy, western herbal medicine or nutrition.


Vitalism and vitalist philosophy
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Vitalism and vitalist philosophy
Vitalism is considered the central concept in the different traditional health systems. It is a philosophical doctrine that suggests that living things have some non-physical elements which distinguish them from the non-living organisms. The concept dates back to the Aristotle's period in the 17th century. It further suggests that the doctrine suggests that lives in various organisms are as a result of some other vital forces which are different from the chemical and physical effects (Peters 2002, p.32). Another distinction between life and other mechanisms as suggested by this concept is that life is self-evolving and also self-determining. It is, therefore, an approach that was used in the traditional health systems to prevent and treat various diseases through supporting various defined vital forces in an individual living organism. Such vital force existed in all different bodies regardless of their diverse forms of existence. Therefore, it played such an important role in treatments in the early days making gain much popularity between the 16th and the 17th centuries.
Vitalism concept is associated with quite a long history in the medical philosophies. Most of these traditional healing practices suggested that most diseases resulted from imbalances in the vital forces. Also, when there is depletion in these crucial forces or runs out of balance, a living organism becomes more vulnerable to diseases meaning that they can easily contract various diseases as well as infections. Therefore, the mode of treatment practiced by the vitalist focused on maintaining balance in the vital forces while reinforcing healthy lifestyle practices accompanied by some non-invasive therapies (Leary 1990, p.144). Therefore, this concept was somehow different from the modern health systems in various ways. For instance, concerning the belief of the causes of diseases or the way to the treatment procedures employed in the healing and prevention of such disorders. This may be the reason that this traditional concept may have lost relevance for use in the modern ways of handling health issues.
The concept employed numerous healing modalities and thus was not limited to a given pattern. Being of philosophical nature, the doctrine believed in the guidance of various principles in the application of their methods and tools of treating and preventing diseases.  The healing practices could be done in an allopathic way or the vitalist way. The diagnosis and the treatment of diseases under this concept were based on the understanding of the actual nature of a person's individuality to the greater totality (Kirschene et al. 200, p.82).
Vitalist philosophy became more popular in the 18th century and held an opposing view to chemical and physical mechanisms. Such mechanisms believed that different life processes could only be explained through chemical and biological processes only.  However, for the individuals who adhered to the view of the vitalist philosophy posited that the living objects were characterized by some different special forces making them distinct from the inanimate (Bennett 2010, p.48). The same biologists who held to the vitalist view further suggested that it was not possible for the organic compounds to be created from the inorganic compounds. The main reason for this fact was that there was a vital force missing to facilitate the process. This did not exist for long and survived for some years until it was disproved by scientists who created organic compound from inorganic ones. This was done by a scientist called Wohler who synthesized urea, which is an inorganic compound, from some inorganic elements (Gupta 2000, p.467). These biologists also discovered that yeast cell contents were capable of causing fermentation even when the yeast whole cell did not exist.
The relevance of the vitalist philosophy started declining when the biologists started coming up with proof to counter the evidence raised by the vitalism concept. The concept now does not hold credibility since most of the individuals have begun viewing the body of any living organism as a system. They argue that the human body can be broken down into two different parts and be analyzed by examining the various elements that form it. The ability to proof the physical and chemical nature of the various vital phenomena has contributed significantly to vitalism losing prestige in the modern world (Normandin and Wolfe 2013 p.146). However, despite these facts, the concept has not completely lost significance though it has declined. The main reason that this doctrine is reputable despite being disproven is that of the role it has played in the field of health and medicine. Other many concepts have their grounds in this ancient doctrine.
Relevance to CAM (Chinese and Alternative Medicine) practitioners
Most of the Chinese and alternative medicine practitioners practices derive from the ancient health systems which were close to the natural and social environments in dealing with issues. Therefore, vitalist provided the basis to the traditional Chinese medicine which is unique for being the only medical system in the world based on the vitalist concepts and practices. For instance, the vitalist believed in the existence of factors beyond biomedical process in their paradigm. This led to the Chinese Medicine practitioners suggest of a life force, known as “qi,” which flows throughout the body following certain channels. They believed that it is this force that maintains the vitality as well as the health of an individual (Bennett 2010, p.47). For this reason, vitalism is of high relevance to these practitioners for providing the concepts to base their arguments on.
Secondly, much of the alternative medicine paradigm builds on the vitalism. Its notion of living organisms possessing some unique qualities has contributed to the development of these alternative medicines. These practitioners developed a practice by wh

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