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The evolutionary approach to entropy: Reconciling Georgescu-Roegen's natural philosophy with the maximum entropy framework

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  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten

Abstract

The paper explores the relevance of recent developments in the Maximum Entropy hypothesis for reinstating Georgescu-Roegen's natural philosophy, with special emphasis on the concepts of evolution and time. The key point is the naturalization of the notion of 'subjectivity' in both the Georgescu-Roegen framework and Jaynes's subjectivistic interpretation of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. I introduce the concept of 'observer relativity' with reference to the evolution of 'physical inference devices'. Then, the MaxEnt formalism can be understood as a principle underlying natural selection. Further, given natural selection, maximum entropy production (MEP) results from the confluence of maximum power (Lotka) and the maximization of information capacity, driven by energy dispersal. In these processes, hierarchical structures of gradients of energy dissipation reflect alternative positions of system boundaries, and hence different perspectives of observer-relativity. Thus, I can distinguish between observer relative EntropyOR and observer independent EntropyOI. This allows to reconstruct conceptually the two notions of time proposed by Georgescu-Roegen, with subjectivistic time seen as time relative to the evolutionary process involving incommensurable qualitative change. I claim that this philosophical view offers a powerful conceptual framework for recent empirical research into the energetics of economic growth.

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  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten, 2011. "The evolutionary approach to entropy: Reconciling Georgescu-Roegen's natural philosophy with the maximum entropy framework," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 606-616, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:4:p:606-616
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    Cited by:

    1. Inklaar, Robert & Koetter, Michael & Noth, Felix, 2012. "Who's afraid of big bad banks? Bank competition, SME, and industry growth," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 197, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    2. Russ, Meir, 2016. "The probable foundations of sustainabilism: Information, energy and entropy based definition of capital, Homo Sustainabiliticus and the need for a “new gold”," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 328-338.
    3. Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten, 2015. "Energy, growth, and evolution: Towards a naturalistic ontology of economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 432-442.
    4. Yu, Xiaofan, 2011. "A spatial interpretation of the persistency of China's provincial inequality," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 171, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    5. Böing, Philipp & Müller, Elisabeth, 2012. "Technological Capabilities of Chinese Enterprises: Who is Going to Compete Abroad?," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 62081, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Georgescu-Roegen Jaynes Lotka Maximum entropy Observer relativity Time Natural selection Physical concepts of information;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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