Irreversibility And Evolution In Peirce's Cosmology
Andrew Stuart Reynolds
DAI, 59, no. 07A, (1997): 2550
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.