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Publication - Professor Thomas Osborne

    Vitalism as Pathos


    Osborne, TSD, 2016, ‘Vitalism as Pathos’. Biosemiotics, vol 9., pp. 185-205


    This paper addresses the remarkable longevity (in spite of numerous
    ‘refutations’) of the idea of vitalism in the biological sciences and
    beyond. If there is to be a renewed vitalism today, however, we need to
    ask – on what kind of original conception of life should it be based?
    This paper argues that recent invocations of a generalized, processual
    variety of vitalism in the social sciences and humanities above all,
    however exciting in their scope, miss much of the basic originality –
    and interest – of the vitalist perspective itself. The paper argues that
    any renewed spirit of vitalism in the contemporary era would have to
    base itself on the normativity of the living organism rather than on any
    generalized conceptions of process or becoming. In the terms of the
    paper, such a vitalism would have to be concrete and ‘disciplinary’
    rather than processual or generalized. Such a vitalism would also need
    to accommodate, crucially, the pathic
    aspects of life – pathology, sickness, error; in short everything that
    makes us, as living beings, potentially weak, without power, at a loss.
    Sources for such a pathic vitalism might be found above all in the work
    of Georges Canguilhem – and Friedrich Nietzsche – rather than primarily
    in Bergson, Whitehead or Deleuze.

    Full details in the University publications repository