[SydPhil] Kim Sterelny Title and Abstract

Brian Hedden brian.hedden at sydney.edu.au
Tue Aug 25 12:30:57 AEST 2015

Hi everyone,

Here is the title and abstract for the department seminar talk by Kim Sterelny (ANU) tomorrow (Wed) from 1-2:30 in the Muniment Room in the Quadrangle Building.  See you all there!

Title: Contingency and History

In a series of publications, Stephen Gould has argued both that the history of life, and human history, are contingent. These ideas have sparked a considerable critical response, but this has largely focussed on the history of life. This paper targets the supposed contingency of human history, though it does so via evolutionary history, framing Gould’s ideas as a claim about explanatory strategies and the robustness of historical trajectories. This paper does not reject or defend a global claim about human history. Rather, it aims to identify and explain the difference between robust and fragile historical trajectories. It does so by considering a set of contrasting cases — the outbreak of World War I; the Nuer Conquest; the gradual containment of the Black Death; the European demographic transition — and identifying critical differences amongst the cases. The analysis links contingency to the historical emergence of command-and-control institutions; robustness to population-level processes structured by relatively stable institutions.
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