When What Had to Happen Was Not Bound to Happen: History, Chance, Narrative, Evolution

in Journal of the Philosophy of History
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Abstract

What is it for history to matter? Stephen Gould argued that unpredictability is part of the answer. For example, the “fact” that repeated replays of the history of life would end differently every time is a sign that history matters to the course of evolution. But there is a problem here: if a particular point in the past leaves open alternative possible futures, then in what sense does that point in the past matter with regard to which of the outcomes occurs? We argue that unpredictability is central to the importance of history. However, it is not the unpredictability of the future, but rather the unpredictability of the past itself that is the key. History matters when a particular future depends on a particular past that was not bound to happen, but did.

When What Had to Happen Was Not Bound to Happen: History, Chance, Narrative, Evolution

in Journal of the Philosophy of History

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References

1)

S.J. GouldWonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (New York: Norton1989) 51.

10)

P. GoodmanThe Structure of Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1954) 14.

12)

S.J. GouldThe Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press2002) 1342–1343 emphasis added.

13)

Ibid. 1342.

15)

E.H. CarrWhat is History (New York: Knopf1965) 128.

17)

See also Beatty“Chance Variation: Darwin on Orchids,” Philosophy of Science 73 (2004) 629–641; J. Lennox “Darwin was a Teleologist” Biology and Philosophy 8 (1993) 409–421.

23)

W.B. GalliePhilosophy and the Historical Understanding (New York: Schocken1964) 26.

24)

G. Morson“Narrativeness,” New Literary History34 (2003) 59–7360.

26)

M.-L. RyanPossible Worlds Artificial Intelligence and Narrative Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press1991) 149 and all of chapter 8.

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