Life Concepts from Aristotle to Darwin

On Vegetable Souls

  • Lucas John Mix

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Lucas John Mix
    Pages 1-14
  3. Birth

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-15
    2. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 17-28
    3. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 29-41
  4. Development

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 77-77
    2. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 103-115
    3. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 117-128
    4. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 129-140
  5. Death

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 141-141
    2. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 143-157
    3. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 159-173
    4. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 175-187
  6. New Life

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 211-211
    2. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 213-223
    3. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 225-238
    4. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 239-248
    5. Lucas John Mix
      Pages 249-258
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 259-273

About this book


This book traces the history of life-concepts, with a focus on the vegetable souls of Aristotle, investigating how they were interpreted and eventually replaced by evolutionary biology. Philosophers have long struggled with the relationship between physics, physiology, and psychology, asking questions of organization, purpose, and agency. For two millennia, the vegetable soul, nutrition, and reproduction were commonly used to understand basic life and connect it to “higher” animal and vegetable life. Cartesian dualism and mechanism destroyed this bridge and left biology without an organizing principle until Darwin. Modern biology parallels Aristotelian vegetable life-concepts, but remains incompatible with the animal, rational, subjective, and spiritual life-concepts that developed through the centuries. Recent discoveries call for a second look at Aristotle’s ideas – though not their medieval descendants. Life remains an active, chemical process whose cause, identity, and purpose is self-perpetuation.


Aristotle Taliaferro biopower phaulon skemma Nealon

Authors and affiliations

  • Lucas John Mix
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-96046-3
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-96047-0
  • Buy this book on publisher's site