Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


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core definition

Hylozoism is the philosophical view that draws no distinction between living and non-living matter: all matter is regarded as having some form of 'life' or sensation.

explanatory context


analytical review

The Free Dictionary (2013), referring to Britannica Concise Encyclopedia states:

View that all matter is alive, either in itself or by participation in the operation of a world soul or some similar principle. Hylozoism is logically distinct both from early forms of animism, which personify nature, and from panpsychism, which attributes some form of consciousness or sensation to all matter. The word was coined in the 17th century by Ralph Cudworth, who with Henry More (1614–1687) spoke of “plastic nature,” an unconscious, incorporeal substance that controls and organizes matter and thus produces natural events as a divine instrument of change.


The Free Dictionary (2016), referring to The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979) says that hylozoism:

is the philosophical doctrine that all matter is animated.

The term was& introduced in the 17th century.

Hylozoism dates from the very beginning of philosophy and occurs in the Ionian school of natural philosophers -- Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes. Heraclitus, Empedocles and the stoics were close to hylozoism, and elements of it were included in Aristotle's eachings. During the Renaissance, it appeared again in the teachings of the Italian natural philosophers B. Telesio and G. Bruno, Paracelsus, and others. Spinoza studied thought as a quality present in all of nature, as an attribute of matter. After him several French materialists, such as Diderot, Robinet and Deschamps, acknowledged the general animation of matter. E. Haeckel defended a point of view similar to hylozoism.

According to hylozoism, life and hence sensitivity are present in all things in nature, in all forms of matter. Opposed to this philosophy is dialectical materialism, which considers sensation a property of only highly developed organic matter.

associated issues


related areas

See also



The Free Dictionary, 2013, 'Hylozoism', available at, accessed 7 March 2013, page has changed and original quoted article not available 22 December 2016.

The Free Dictionary, 2016, 'Hylozoism', available at, accessed 22 December 2016, still available 5 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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