animal spirits

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animal spirits pl (plural only)

  1. (medicine, now historical) The theorized ‘spirits’ or physiological principles which allowed for sensation and voluntary movement. [from 15th c.]
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, →OCLC:
      , vol.I, New York 2001, p.253:
      This is likewise evident in such as walk in the night in their sleep, and do strange feats: these vapours move the phantasy, the phantasy the appetite, which moving the animal spirits causeth the body to walk up and down as if they were awake.
    • 1723, Charles Walker, Memoirs of Sally Salisbury, section VI:
      His Brains will be found situated at the Head of the Os Pubis: His Animal Spirits acting more vigorously in that Part, than in the Upper Region.
    • 1759, Lawrence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Folio Society, published 2005, page 19:
      you have all, I dare say, heard of the animal spirits, as how they are transfused from father to son &c. &c.—and a great deal to that purpose:– Well, you may take my word, that nine parts in ten of a man's sense of his nonsense, his successes and miscarriages in this world depend upon their motions and activity [...].
  2. Liveliness, vivacity, a happy tendency to action. [from 18th c.]
    • 1813, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Plain Label, published 1975, page 63:
      She had high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence, which the attention of the officers, to whom her uncle's good dinners, and her own easy manners recommended her, had increased into assurance.
    • 1936, John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, page 161:
      Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as a result of animal spirits — of a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities.
  3. (economics) After Keynes (citation 1936, above), the emotional and intuitive factors that drive business decisions whether to make investment gambles. [from 20th c.]
    • 1975, Hyman P. Minsky, John Maynard Keynes, page 11:
      This flaw exists because the financial system necessary for capitalist vitality and vigor — which translates entrepreneurial animal spirits into effective demand for investment — contains the potential for runaway expansion, powered by an investment boom.
    • 2005, Roger S. Frantz, Two minds: intuition and analysis in the history of economic thought, page 91:
      The existence of animal spirits does not imply that "irrational psychology" is the controlling factor in business and economics.
    • 2006, Robert J. Shiller, Irrational Exuberance, page 233:
      One of John Maynard Keynes's most famous terms, "animal spirits," is another name for much the same concept as irrational exuberance