This book offers a comprehensive account of vitalism and the Romantic philosophy of nature. The author explores the rise of biology as a unified science in Germany by reconstructing the history of the notion of "vital force," starting from the mid-eighteenth through the early nineteenth century. Further, he argues that Romantic Naturphilosophie played a crucial role in the rise of biology in Germany, especially thanks to its treatment of teleology. In fact, both post-Kantian philosophers and naturalists were guided by teleological principles in defining the object of biological research.
The book begins by considering the problem of generation, focusing on the debate over the notion of "formative force." Readers are invited to engage with the epistemological status of this formative force, i.e. the question of the principle behind organization. The second chapter provides a reconstruction of the physiology of vital forces as it was elaborated in the mid- to late-eighteenth century by the group of physicians and naturalists known as the "Göttingen School." Readers are shown how these authors developed an understanding of the animal kingdom as a graded series of organisms with increasing functional complexity.
Chapter three tracks the development of such framework in Romantic Naturphilosophie. The author introduces the reader to the problem of classification, showing how Romantic philosophers of nature regarded classification as articulated by a unified plan that connects all living forms with one another, relying on the idea of living nature as a universal organism. In the closing chapter, this analysis shows how the three instances of pre-biological discourse on living beings - theory of generation, physiology and natural history - converged to form the consolidated disciplinary matrix of a general biology.
The book offers an insightful read for all scholars interested in classical German philosophy, especially those researching the philosophy of nature, as well as the history and philosophy of biology.
Andrea Gambarotto obtained his PhD in a co-tutored program between the Scuola Normale Superiore (Florence) and the Institut d'historie et de philosophie des sciences et des techniques (Paris). His main areas of expertise are classical German philosophy, philosophy of nature and philosophy of biology. He has published papers especially on German Idealism and on the history of German life-sciences between 18th and 19th century. He is the editor of a volume in history and philosophy of biology dedicated to the notion of organism.
Introduction.- I. Generation.- 1. At the Origin of German Vitalism: the Haller-Wolff Debate.- 2. Vital Force and Epigenesis: Wolff's Theory of Generation.- 2.1. Discarding the Invisibility Argument.- 2.2. The Progressive Organization of Parts.- 3. Goal-Directed Organization: Wolff and Blumenbach on Teleology.- 3.1. Wolff''s Vital-Materialism.- 3.2. Realist-Teleological Vitalism: Blumenbach and the Bildungstrieb.- 4. Understanding Purpose: Kant as a Vitalist.- 4.1. Organized Beings and Machines: Kant on the Formative Force.- 4.2. Kant's Regulative Vitalism.- 5. Chemical Vitalism: Reil on the Vital Force.- 5.1. Vital Force as Result of Organization.- 5.2. Reil's Nomological Vitalism.- 6. Concluding Remarks .- II. Functions.- 1. The Göttingen School as Historical Category.- 2. Building Blocks of the Göttingen School: Haller on Vital Properties.- 2.1. Irritability and Sensibility: First Outline of Vitalist Physiology.- 2.2. "Vis Insita": Correlating Structure and Function.- 3. Foundations of the Göttingen School: Vital Forces in Blumenbach's Physiology.- 3.1. Fluid and Solid Parts of the Living Body.- 3.2. Extending the Hallerian Model.- 3.3. Force and Function.- 4. Core of the Gottingen School: Kielmeyer's Lecture as Program for a General Biology.- 5. Explanatory Framework of the Göttingen School: Link's Deflationist Approach.- 6. Concluding Remarks.- III. Classification.- 1. Classificatory Frameworks in the Late-Eighteenth Century.- 2. Blumenbach on Natural History.- 3. The "Kantian Principle" for Natural History.- 3.1. A New Principle?.- 3.2. Ideas so Monstrous that Reason Recoils Before Them: Kant on Transformism.- 3.3. Phyletic Origin: Kant and Girtanner on Archetypes.- 4. The Unity of Plan in Goethe's Morphology.- 4.1. Metamorphosis as Idealized Epigenesis: Goethe's Relation to Wolff and Blumenbach.- 4.2. Archetype and Compensation: Goethe's Relation to Kielmeyer.- 5. "Vital-Materialism" and Naturphilosophie.- 5.1. "A New Epoch of Natural History": Schelling's Relation to Kielmeyer.- 5.2. The Unity of Plan in the Erster Entwurf .- 6. Transcendental Morphology: a Legacy of Naturphilosophie.- 6.1. Unity of Plan and Vertebrate Theory: Oken's Transcendental Morphology .- 6.2. Transcendental Morphology outside Germany: Geoffroy and Owen.- 7. Concluding Remarks.- IV. Biology.- 1. A New Epistemological Field.- 1.1. The Transformation of Natural History .- 1.2. Defining Life .- 1.3. Vital Force .- 2. The Göttingen School in the Biologie .- 2.1. Epigenesis and Biology.- 2.2. Reproductive Force in the Animal Kingdom.- 3. Naturphilosophie in the Biologie.- 3.1. Mechanism and Teleology.- 3.2. Nature and Spirit.- 4. Ecology and Transformation.- 4.1. Distribution of Living Forms.- 4.2. Transformation of Living Forms.- 5. Treviranus and Lamarck: Notes for a Comparative Perspective.- 6. Concluding Remarks.- Conclusion.