Hylozoism: hy•lo•zo•ism: noun \ˌhī-lə-ˈzō-ˌi-zəm\ from the Greek hylē matter, literally, wood + zōos alive, living; akin to Greek zōē life.
1. a doctrine held especially by early Greek philosophers that all matter has life
2. the philosophical conjecture that all or some material things possess life
3. that all life is inseparable from matter
4. that the universe is essentially alive, or
5. that "inanimate" matter has latent powers of abiogenesis (amino chains giving rise to life).

There is distinction drawn between Hylozoistic “possessing life” and the Panpsychic “Possessing mind”, a fact hard to maintain as the distinction of applying life is usually augmented with the association of at least some consciousness. By that same token, animism, the association of spirits to the world around us, is also less than clear in that some sort of ‘life’ and ‘consciousness’ are, or at least can be, applied to the spiritual essence of places, people, and things.

It is important to remember that Hylozoism does not imply separate life or identity. The life was intrinsic to the object, latent or otherwise, be it a marble or a Lion. Though, the stoics believed in the idea of the world soul, or anima mundi, the vital force of the universe… but that’s starting to move into pandeism (which will explore in another installment) some.

For now, we need understand that Hylozoism started out as the belief that life was inseparable from matter, which was then expanded to include the latent and insipient forms of life as distinguished by an example (a rock (latent) a dog (incipient)). This led to a mechanistic view of life in things, the height of which is the soul of Descartes’ work, depriving the material from anything but mechanism, and then flowing back into a single set of distinctions that sees life as indivisible between animate and inanimate objects again. Are you thoroughly confused yet? I know I am.

Animism is the view that spirits inhabit the world (universe). Panpsychism is the idea that all matter is imbued with some (greater or lesser) form of consciousness. Hylozoism is the association that all matter has intrinsically linked with life. Animism has elements of panpsychism (the assignment of consciousness to the soul) and Hylozoism (the assignment of life to the soul).

It’s hard for me to imagine mind and life without soul (probably the reason I’m an animist) and the idea that life and consciousness are not separable from the object to which it is attached is a limiting factor preventing the same being said about animism.

Tags: anima, animism, animist, anthropology, comparative, cultural, hylozoism, panpsychism, religions, shaman, More…shamanism

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you, I appreciate the feed back.

You might also want to look into the Panpsychism post too. I may not have specifically mentioned it there, but the concepts of mind and life are all tied up in the Greek concept of Anima Mundi (world soul) of the stoics, and so differentiating the two is a nightmare. On stodgy Greek Philosopher will say the magnets move on their own because they are alive, another because of them character of mind, and somehow they managed to avoid the whole mind and life together thing, though when you read what they wrote, its like the two couldn't be separated even in conceptually.

Something you might want to consider, sort of a personal question you might want to know for your own beliefs; the idea of monism, and dualism. It works easiest if I start with dualism. Dualism is the belief that there are two kinds of substance making up the universe. The three most popular choices are physical (of course), mental, and spiritual with life running a close fourth thanks to hylozoisms resurrection. In a dualistic universe, you can have both physical and mental substances making up the universe, making a significant advance towards the universal mind concept that characterizes one version of pantheism. Or, you can have the physical and spiritual that makes for the classical Animist cosmology, or even a mental and life basis, where the physical world is a dream created by the mind (sort of a version of solipsism and a one off of certain Hindu beliefs.)

Monism, by contrast, is the view that all the things in the universe are made up of only one substance. For instance, if that substance were physical, you have a materialistic world. If that substance is mind, you have a group hallucination projected from the mind to create the illusion of a physical world, and everything is really just mental.

It's just something for you to consider if you want.

...Oh, I have some stuff coming up on Spiritualism soon that might interest you.
I can't tell you how refreshing it was to get past the modernists like Tylor and the assumptive arrogance of Eurocentric Superiority and reach the Cartesian Post-modern ethographies of Elaide and Mazur. But, If I had to say which school of thought I like the most, its the deconstructionists.
Yeah, I'm really not feeling Phenomenolism so much but from a purely bio-mechanical stand point, it makes sense. I mean, that's the way a robot would process it, and the physical really is just a set of mechanical process on the nano scale in fractal liquid crystal cells. Its the way we perceive perception, and the reality of it that's the real trip.

Me, I'm more of an Existential Egoist with Humanist tendencies. Think objectivism without the denial of the supernatural and metaphysical but with lot of the rejection of dogmatic and revealed faiths. (What can I say... I have real problem with authority.)



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