Anne conway’s exceptional vitalism: Material spirits and active matter

Doina Cristina Rusu*

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review


Anne Conway’s philosophy has been categorized as “vitalism,” “vital monism,” “spiri-tualism,” “monistic spiritualism,” “immaterial vitalism,” and “antimaterialism.” While there is no doubt that she is a monist and a vitalist, problems arise with the categories of “spir-itualism,” “immaterial vitalism,” and “antimaterialism.” Conway conceives of created substances as gross and fixed spirit, or rarefied and volatile matter. While interpreters agree that Conway’s “spirit” shares characteristics traditionally attributed to matter (e.g., extension, divisibility, impenetrability), and that she is critical of Henry More’s immaterial spirit, Conway’s spirit is still conceived as an immaterial soul-like or mind-like entity. I argue that Conway’s vitalism is material, and is best understood in the tradition of Renaissance vital naturalism. First, Conway does not criticize materialism per se, only mechanical materialism, which characterizes matter as lifeless. Her vitalism has to be materialistic in some sense, since only God is an immaterial substance. Second, Conway’s conceptions of matter and spirit, the language she uses, and the fact that she attributes thinking to extended, divisible, and impenetrable substances all place her within the tradition of Renaissance vital naturalism, wherein Bernardino Telesio, Tommaso Campanella, and Francis Bacon used “spirit” to account for all natural processes.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)528-546
Aantal pagina's19
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
StatusPublished - 1-sep-2021

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