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

  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten

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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 70 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 (February)
Pages: 606-616

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:4:p:606-616
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