Gouldian arguments and the sources of contingency

Biology and Philosophy 32 (2):243-261 (2017)
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‘Gouldian arguments’ appeal to the contingency of a scientific domain to establish that domain’s autonomy from some body of theory. For instance, pointing to evolutionary contingency, Stephen Jay Gould suggested that natural selection alone is insufficient to explain life on the macroevolutionary scale. In analysing contingency, philosophers have provided source-independent accounts, understanding how events and processes structure history without attending to the nature of those events and processes. But Gouldian Arguments require source-dependent notions of contingency. An account of contingency is source-dependent when it is indexed to some pattern and some process. Positions like Gould’s do not turn on the mere fact of life’s contingency—that life’s shape could have been different due to its sensitivity to initial conditions, path-dependence or stochasticity. Rather, Gouldian arguments require that the contingency is due to particular kinds of processes: in this case, those which microevolutionary theory cannot account for. This source-dependent perspective clarifies both debates about the nature and importance of contingency, and empirical routes for testing Gould’s thesis.



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Ontogeny and Phylogeny.Stephen Jay Gould - 1978 - Philosophy of Science 45 (4):652-653.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.David L. Hull - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (3):435-438.

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