Objective: The purposes of this article are to describe the development of vitalism from its earliest Hellenistic form to that of a contemporary vitalism ethos and to propose the importance of vitalism in the philosophy of chiropractic and the chiropractic health care paradigm.
Discussion: A review of the history of vitalism is offered to clarify the use of the term within the chiropractic literature and to provide a defensible position for vitalism as a foundation for future research in the philosophy of chiropractic. The founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer, drew heavily from spiritualism and vitalism in his construction of early chiropractic philosophy. As chiropractic practice and philosophy have evolved, that vitalistic foundation has become a polemic used by factions within the profession, resulting in political challenges. The controversy within chiropractic mirrors similar debates within academic philosophy regarding vitalism. The philosophy of vitalism has developed beyond its classical constructs, emerging as an ethos amenable to informing research within clinical applications and a perspective capable of informing the identity of chiropractic.
Conclusion: Exploring the broad historical context of vitalism may allow for an understanding of the plurality of vitalist ideas and a clarification of the concept within chiropractic literature. Adopting vitalism within the philosophy of chiropractic as an ethos based on the work of Georges Canguilhem provides a view of life as fundamentally original, adaptable, and unpredictable, and therefore not sufficiently understood in purely reductionist terms.
Author keywords: Chiropractic; Spiritualism; Vitalism
Author affiliation: Clinics/Clinical Sciences, Life University, Kennesaw, Georgia, United States
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