Freedom Giving Birth to Order: Philosophical Reflections on Peirce's Evolutionary Cosmology and its Contemporary Resurrections

Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 16 (1):1-23 (2020)
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This paper seeks to show that Charles Sanders Peirce's interest in an evolutionary account of the laws of nature is motivated both by his desire to extend the scope of the application of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) and by his attempt to explain the success of our deployment of the PSR, which presupposes the existence of determinate causal structures. One can situate Peirce's concern with the explanation of the laws of nature in relation to the influences of Naturphilosophie on Peirce. I then show that some strands of contemporary physics can be understood as resurrections of Peirce's evolutionary cosmology. I show that we can understand Lee Smolin's theory of "cosmological natural selection" as a version of Peirce's evolutionary cosmology that is characterized by greater refinement and determinacy. However I argue that, contrary to Smolin's claim, an evolutionary account of the laws of nature need not require the abandonment of the relativity of simultaneity as established by the special theory of relativity. I also argue that Lee Smolin and Roberto Unger's characterization of the "original state" in their account of evolutionary cosmology raises philosophical problems of individuation that are best approached from the perspective of Chinese process metaphysics. Finally I turn to the wider consequences of evolutionary cosmology in relation to how we traditionally "rank" fields of knowledge that deal with atemporal structures as "more rigorous" than fields that deal with historical phenomena.

Author's Profile

Zeyad El Nabolsy
York University


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