1 Biology the more viscous, clear outer layer of the cytoplasm in ameboid cells. Compare with endoplasm.
2 a supernatural viscous substance that is supposed to exude from the body of a medium during a spiritualistic trance and form the material for the manifestation of spirits. —Oxford American Dictionaries.
ÉLAN VITAL (‘vital impulse’) One of the most notorious, and misunderstood, of all philosophical concepts, élan vital is invariably cited by both scientists and philosophers who wish to dismiss Bergson as a mere metaphysician or as an outmoded vitalist. But Bergson himself is explicitly critical of naive vitalism, is adamant that metaphysics can be of value to science and argues that élan vital is a notion derived from actual experience. In Creative Evolution, Bergson demonstrates that reductive, mechanistic, science is unable to account for the movement of evolution. The notion of élan vital designates those aspects of life and the movement of evolution which are irreducible to mechanistic explanation. Among these are the tendency of evolution towards greater complexity and the indivisibility of the whole organism, expressed in the co-ordination of its parts, which contributes to the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental changes. But the most significant stems from Bergson’s account of duration. If evolution could be explained by mechanism, then, Bergson argues, the forms adopted by life in the future could be deduced according to the principle of mechanistic determinism. However, to the extent that duration is the ‘essential attribute of life’, such forms are unpredictable in the strict sense, just as, in time, the future cannot be predicted on the basis of the past or present. In the final analysis, therefore, élan vital is the mark of the irreducible temporality of life, and hence of evolution, and thus designates the fundamental creativity of both life and evolution. —R. Durie
élan vital is supposedly signifies at least five phenomena:
1. the co-ordination of the organism’s parts
2. how life is counterposed to matter
eg. speciation’s diachronic aspect (adaptation) as distinct from its synchronic aspect (ramification)
3. the commonality of all life being an original impulse (repetition) and not some alleged common goal (perfection)
4. the discord arising within life as a whole expressed in conflict between species, eg. biological competition
5. how life endures, creating the path it travels over