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DEPFID Working Paper 4/2007 - Abstract
Function, mind and novelty: organismic concepts and Richard M. Goodwin formation at Harvard, 1932-1934. Insights from his papers at Siena University


Mauro Caminati

This paper is concerned with the threads connecting Richard Goodwin's early formation as an Harvard undergraduate student in political science and philosophy, with his life-long concern with the modes in which novelty and innovation enters into social systems and modifies their working. We shall consider the evidence, based on Goodwin’s papers at Siena University, suggesting that Goodwin's interest in the causes and effects of novelty generation in social systems pre-dates the much emphasized acquaintance with Schumpeter, and even the decision to direct his post-graduate formation towards economics. This interest has strong roots in his outspoken involvement with the Marxist political movement in the years 1932-1934, which made him particularly concerned with the relation between the objective historical inheritance and the freedom for innovation and social change embedded in human creativity. Goodwin’s formation on such matters was strongly influenced by the cultural seeds he could harvest, directly or indirectly, through the Harvard scientific and philosophical community and most notably as a result of the intellectual fascination for the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

Keywords: organized system, function, mind, novelty, A. N. Whitehead

JEL Classification: B31

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