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Reflections on Path Dependence and Irreversibility: Lessons from Evolutionary Biology

Eric Desjardins
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 78, No. 5 (December 2011), pp. 724-738
DOI: 10.1086/662560
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/662560
Page Count: 15
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Reflections on Path Dependence and Irreversibility: Lessons from Evolutionary Biology
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Abstract

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.

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