Preyer's Position

Along with Virchow, we must name another of the older generation, the

physiologist William Preyer, who combated "vitalism," "dualism," and

"mechanism" with equal vehemence, and issued a manifesto, already somewhat

solemn and official, against "vital force." And yet he must undoubtedly be

regarded as a vitalist by mechanists and vitalists alike.(79) He is more

definite than Virchow, for he does not content himself with general

statements as to the "origin" of vital force, and of the "swinging over"

of the merely mechanical energies into the domain of the vital, but holds

decidedly to the proposition omne vivum e vivo. He therefore maintains

that life has always existed in the cosmos, and entirely rejects

spontaneous generation.

The fallacy, he says, of the mechanistic claims was due to the increasing

number of physical explanations of isolated vital phenomena, and of

imitations of the chemical products of organic metabolism. A wrong

conclusion was drawn from these. "Any one who hopes to deduce from the

chemical and physical properties of the fertilised egg the necessity that

an animal, tormented by hunger and love must, after a certain time, arise

therefrom, has a pathetic resemblance to the miserable manufacturers of

homunculi." Life is one of the underivable and inexplicable fundamental

functions of universal being. From all eternity life has only been

produced from life.

As Preyer accepts the Kant-Laplace theory of the origin of our earth from

the sun, he reaches ideas which have points of contact with the

"cosmo-organic" ideas of Fechner. Life was present even when the earth was

a fiery fluid sphere, and was possibly more general and more abundant then

than it is now. And life as we know it may only be a smaller and isolated

expression of that more general life.(80)

Among the younger generation of specialists, those most often quoted as

opponents of the mechanical theory are probably Bunge, Rindfleisch, Kerner

von Marilaun, Neumeister and Wolff. A special group among them, not very

easy to classify, may be called the Tectonists. Associated with them is

Reinke's "Theory of Dominants." Driesch started from their ranks, and is a

most interesting example of consistent development from a recognition of

the impossibilities of the mechanistic position to an individually

thought-out vitalistic theory. Hertwig, too, takes a very definite

position of his own in regard to these matters. Perhaps the most original

contribution in the whole field is Albrecht's "Theory of Different Modes

of Regarding Things." We may close the list with the name of K. C.

Schneider, who has carried these modern ideas on into metaphysical

speculation. Several others might be mentioned along with and connecting

these representative names.(81)