© 2018

Life Concepts from Aristotle to Darwin

On Vegetable Souls


  • Presents a diachronic treatment of life-concepts running from Homer to the present

  • Traces the history of vegetable souls

  • Defends a Darwinian concept of vegetable souls as useful for modern biology


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

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

  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

About the authors

Lucas John Mix is an associate of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, USA. He works at the intersection of biology, history, philosophy, and theology and has worked with NASA Astrobiology programs for the last 20 years on understanding the meaning and extent of life.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Life Concepts from Aristotle to Darwin
  • Book Subtitle On Vegetable Souls
  • Authors Lucas John Mix
  • 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 Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-96046-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-07139-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-96047-0
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages VIII, 273
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Philosophy of Nature
    Evolutionary Biology
    Religion and Society
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Life Concepts, Mix (Harvard) provides a comprehensive treatise of the soul, emphasizing nutritive or vegetable souls, from the concept's beginnings with Homer and pre-Socratic philosophers to significant development of the disparate views of Plato and Aristotle. … As a philosophical and theological work, Mix provides a meaningful and engaging account of a deep, enduring subject.” (Z. B. Johnson, Choice, Vol. 56 (8), April, 2019)​