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The Science of the Living

The theory of evolution is presented by Lamarck as one of the branches of a new science of the living that he calls biology. The need to gather all of the knowledge about life was felt by several scientists. Karl Friedrich Burdach and Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus also simultaneously and independently proposed this term The term biology can be understood in two ways:

1. The science of life. Biology as the science of life is the science that studies the forces that animate all living things, and that is qualitatively different from the forces that created matter. This hypothesis is often referred to as vitalism. Lamarck speaks of a vital orgasm, which he defines as a particular tension in all of the points of the soft tissue of living bodies which hold their molecules at a certain distance from one another: a distance that they are susceptible to lose, by the simple fact of attraction, when the cause that maintains this space ceases to actâ11 (Lamarck, 1802, II.2, p. 61f), translated by Marcel Duclos). This vital orgasm is related to the fluids in which all the cells of the organism float, and which circulate in the cardiovascular system and in the nerves. These theories attempt to explain what causes living creatures to exist. The notion of orgasm is not necessarily associated, in the French of the period, to the sexual act. Although this type of orgasm is at the root of the power of life, it can become destructive when it causes an excess of heat in an organ.12

2. The science of the living. The study of living creatures (plants and animals) does not necessarily imply a vitalistic❠approach. Most of the biological theories, since Claude Bernard and Charles

The curriculum for biology is detailed by Lamarck in his Zoological Philosophy (1809):

1. The description of natural history, that is, the history of organs and of their organization.

2. The description of the physiological phenomena that maintain the life of the organism

3. A psychophysiology that explains the mechanisms that give rise to the movements that an organism executes and to the feelings and the intelligence that motivate it.

The second part of this curriculum is the testimony to what was considered physiology at the time, but the advances in this domain are so formidable that that has all been surpassed. I therefore concentrate on the third part, which presents the beginnings of an evolutionary psychophysiology. This psychophysiology is developed in the first volume of the Natural History of Invertebrates.

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