Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 6, No 1 (2010)

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Maximum Power and Maximum Entropy Production: Finalities in Nature

Stanley Salthe


I begin with the definition of power, and find that it is finalistic inasmuch as work directs energy dissipation in the interests of some system. The maximum power principle of Lotka and Odum implies an optimal energy efficiency for any work; optima are also finalities.  I advance a statement of the maximum entropy production principle, suggesting that most work of dissipative structures is carried out at rates entailing energy flows faster than those that would associate with maximum power. This is finalistic in the sense that the out-of-equilibrium universe, taken as an isolated system, entrains work in the interest of global thermodynamic equilibration.  I posit an evolutionary scenario, with a development on Earth from abiotic times, when promoting convective energy flows could be viewed as the important function of dissipative structures, to biotic times when the preservation of living dissipative structures was added to the teleology.  Dissipative structures are required by the equilibrating universe to enhance local energy gradient dissipation.


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