Chance and Dialectic in Biological Epistemology

A Critical Analysis of Jacques Monod’s Theses
  • Jean Piaget


The outstanding work that Jacques Monod (1971) has devoted to the subject of chance and necessity in human evolution merits a full discussion, for it is characterized by two qualities that are rarely encountered: an undeniable originality in the interpretation of his theses, even those that are quite common, such as the role of natural selection; and a great flexibility of thinking with regard to fashionable tendencies, such as the dialectic in nature. If the following remarks on certain points go counter to the explanatory models of the author, this is certainly not done merely for the sake of a critical reaction. On the contrary, these remarks are to suggest certain further developments that seem to be in the spirit of Monod’s work (for instance, the relation between chance and selection), and to support a dialectic which does not belong to any school—a dialectic which I have used spontaneously in my own work and which appears to me to be implicated in the ideas of Monod on the necessary role of self-regulation. [Several Marxists have been able to discover a convergence between my thinking and their theses, but they recognize that this was a simple coincidence (Goldman, 1970).]


Inverse Operation Chance Event Causal Action Dialectic Process Hereditary Variation 
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  1. Goldman, L., 1970, “Marxisme et Sciences Humaines,” Gallimard, Paris.Google Scholar
  2. Monod, J., 1971, “Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology,” Alfred A. Knopf, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Piaget, J., 1971a, “Biology and Knowledge,” University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  4. Piaget, J., 1971b, Hasard et dialectique en épistemologie biologique, Sciences, revue de la civilisation scientifique 71: 29–36.Google Scholar
  5. Waddington, C. H., “New Patterns in Genetics and Development,” 1962, New York, Columbia University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Piaget
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l’EducationUniversité de GenèveGenevaSwitzerland

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