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Reflections on Path Dependence and Irreversibility: Lessons from Evolutionary Biology
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 5 (December 2011), pp. 724-738
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/662560
Page Count: 15
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This essay examines the claim “path dependence entails irreversibility” from the point of view of evolutionary biology. I argue that evolutionary irreversibility possesses many faces, sometimes conflicting with path dependence. I propose an account of path dependence that does not rely on irreversibility and explain why it more naturally coexists with the notion of (contingent) irreversibility developed by the Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo. However, I argue that we should not conceive of this relationship as necessary.
Copyright 2011 by the Philosophy of Science Association. All rights reserved.