Our aim in this paper is to bring to light the importance of the notion of économie animale in Montpellier vitalism, as a hybrid concept which brings together the structural and functional dimensions of the living body – dimensions which hitherto had primarily been studied according to a mechanistic model, or were discussed within the framework of Stahlian animism. The celebrated image of the bee-swarm expresses this structural-functional understanding of living bodies quite well: “One sees them press against each other, mutually supporting each other, forming a kind of whole, in which each living part, in its own way, by means of the correspondence and directions of its motions, enables this kind of life to be sustained in the body” (Encyclopédie, article “Observation,” by Ménuret de Chambaud). What is important here is that every component part is always a living part, i.e., every structural unit is always functional. Interestingly, while the twin notions of ‘animal economy’ and organisation are presented as improvements over a mechanistic perspective, they are nonetheless compatible with an expanded sense of mechanism and by extension, with materialism as reflected notably in the writings of Ménuret and Bordeu. We thus propose both a revision and reconstruction of the historical status of the ‘animal economy’, and a reflection on its conceptual status.

The animal economy as object and program in Montpellier vitalism

Wolfe
;
2008

Abstract

Our aim in this paper is to bring to light the importance of the notion of économie animale in Montpellier vitalism, as a hybrid concept which brings together the structural and functional dimensions of the living body – dimensions which hitherto had primarily been studied according to a mechanistic model, or were discussed within the framework of Stahlian animism. The celebrated image of the bee-swarm expresses this structural-functional understanding of living bodies quite well: “One sees them press against each other, mutually supporting each other, forming a kind of whole, in which each living part, in its own way, by means of the correspondence and directions of its motions, enables this kind of life to be sustained in the body” (Encyclopédie, article “Observation,” by Ménuret de Chambaud). What is important here is that every component part is always a living part, i.e., every structural unit is always functional. Interestingly, while the twin notions of ‘animal economy’ and organisation are presented as improvements over a mechanistic perspective, they are nonetheless compatible with an expanded sense of mechanism and by extension, with materialism as reflected notably in the writings of Ménuret and Bordeu. We thus propose both a revision and reconstruction of the historical status of the ‘animal economy’, and a reflection on its conceptual status.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3719563
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