Darwin-L Message Log 3:74 (November 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<3:74>From KIMLER@social.chass.ncsu.edu  Thu Nov 18 11:09:18 1993

From: KIMLER@social.chass.ncsu.edu
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1993 14:54:49 EST5EDT
Subject: Momentum

  There has been much discussion of the validity of biological
selectionist analogies and models for the historical treatment of
cultural change. I am interested in metaphors derived from physics.
  Early 19th-century Naturphilosophie and German theories of
history seem to draw on physical notions of polarity and the
resolution of tensions (explicitly found in Kant).  Herbert Spencer
used his own version of the new theory of conservation of energy,
calling it "persistence of force". From this he inferred a world of
matter and motion in a constant equilibration, producing a process in
the direction of increasing "heterogeneity" out of unstable
  What about momentum? The early evolutionary paleontologists
constructed a theory of phylogenetic inertia to explain trends.  Can
someone provide examples and/or references to the use of the notions
of momentum or inertia in constructing a model of cultural change?

William Kimler
Dept. History
North Carolina State University

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