Irreversibility And Evolution In Peirce's Cosmology
Andrew Stuart Reynolds
Advisor: Kathleen Okruhlik
Source: DAI, 59, no. 07A, (1997): 2550
Standard No: ISBN: 0-612-28519-7
This dissertation explores Peirce's attempts to explain irreversible processes and the evolutionary development of complexity and order within the universe as a whole. It uncovers two distinct models of irreversible behaviour in Peirce's thinking. One is based upon the law of large numbers of probability theory and statistics; the other, which is better known in Peirce scholarship, is called by Peirce the law of mind or, equivalently, the law of habit. Both of these models describe a type of teleological process. That which is described by the law of large numbers is a comparatively weak stochastic telos. The law of habit involves a much stronger notion of final cause characteristic of conscious and deliberate goal-seeking behaviour. Peirce's attempts to explain how the stronger version arises from the weaker version is investigated, with special attention being paid to his attempt to give a molecular theory of protoplasm based upon the principles of the statistical mechanical theory of matter.
The claim is made that the two distinct models of evolutionary phenomena found in Peirce's cosmological theory are in tension with one another. This tension is formulated here as two separate problems: a problem of redundancy and a problem of incompatibility. Moreover it becomes apparent that there is a related ambiguity in Peirce's thinking about the evolution of natural laws. While the law of large numbers seems suitable as an explanation of law in the sense of a mere (statistical) uniformity, it has definite shortcomings as an account of the growth of dynamical (i.e. causal) law. For this topic the law of habit naturally suggests itself as a superior hypothesis. Yet Peirce never makes the distinction between the two models explicit and even appears to offer both as accounts of the very same phenomena. In summary, Peirce apparently failed to realize that he was relying upon two distinct models and so was unaware of the difficulties which their combination entails.
Accession No: AAGNQ28519