Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > From Physical Causes to Organisms of Meaning > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

A suspicion of vitalism (2)

A subject possessing a power of agency adequate to regulate or coordinate at the level of the whole organism looks for all the world like what has traditionally been called a being. But you will not find biologists speaking of beings. It’s simply not allowed, presumably because it smells too explicitly of vitalism, spiritualism, the soul, or some other appeal to an immaterial reality. We will see later what extraordinary confusion bedevils this attitude, but for now let us simply yield to the biologist’s language of choice, provisionally defining a “being” as “whatever makes sense as the subject of all those terms of agency found in every biological research paper”. What, or who, is capable of all the highly directed activity of cell and organism? We will leave aside for the time being any features of that agency other than ones for which the life scientist has vouched.

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