The fourth theoretical condition of the crisis of the Newtonian
paradigm derives from the advances of knowledge in the fields of
microphysics, chemistry, and biology over the past twenty years. Let me cite,
by way of example, the findings of Ilya Prigogine. His theory of
dissipative structures and his principle of “order through fluctuations”
established that, in open systems, that is, in systems that function far from
equilibrium, evolution is explained by fluctuations of energy which, at
certain not entirely predictable moments spontaneously generate reactions, which in turn, by means of nonlinear mechanisms, pressure the system beyond its utmost limit of disequilibrium.
The situation of bifurcation, that is to say, the critical point at which the
slightest fluctuation may lead to a new state, represents the potentiality of
the system to be attracted to a new state of lesser entropy. Thus the
irreversibility of open systems means that they are the product of their
history (Prigogine & Stengers, 1984; Prigogine, 1980; 1981: 73ff.).
The importance of this theory is that it rests on the new conception of
matter and of nature, which is hard to reconcile with the one we inherited
from classical physics. In place of eternity, we now have history; in place of
determinism, unpredictability; in place of mechanicism, interpenetration,
spontaneity, irreversibility, and evolution; in place of order, disorder; in
place of necessity, creativity and contingency. Prigogine’s theory revives
even such Aristotelian concepts as potentiality and virtuality, which the
sixteenth century scientific revolution appeared to have definitively cast
into the dustbin of history.
another note for myself