Figures of Chance II (Routledge 2024) Table of Contents


Chance in Theory and Practice proposes a multidisciplinary analysis that will serve as a reference work on cultural phenomena related to the evolution of representations of chance and contingency. It aims to measure what the projective and predictive capacity of societies owes, from the beginnings of the modern age, to their representation and/or cultural modeling of reality, insofar as this reality is understood to be contingent. This volume reevaluates the role played by figurative representations of chance in contemporary discourses of knowledge about chance and contingency. Written by seven interdisciplinary teams, including philosophy, literature, history of science, sociology, mathematics, cognitive science, information science, and art history, this text puts the scientific formulations of chance into dialogue with their contemporary literary representations. It thus brings out the central role played by art in the human perception of chance, and in modern and postmodern practices of projecting the future, in order to better understand contemporary human attitudes in the face of risk.



Figures of Chance II. Chance in Theory and Practice

Edited by Anne Duprat and Alison James

Coming soon



By Anne Duprat, with Alison James

Chance, in English and other Indo-European languages, describes an aberration and an illusion in our experience of the course of events. While the term can refer both to the cause and to the result, it in fact designates the absence of a perceptible cause. Chance is connected to fiction in that its enigma conjures up the imaginary space of the “as if” in which the emergence of the chance event is recounted, figured, and staged. Literature and other fictional forms offer devices for constructing our encounter with the mystery of the chance event, taking on the disjunctions and paradoxes of our relationship to time and our search for meaning in events. Literature is also in dialogue with scholarly and scientific discourses that have reconfigured our understanding of chance. The essays in this volume show that artistic, linguistic, narrative, fictional and ludic representations and practices offer models of chance that play a profound role in our ways of apprehending the world.


Chapter 1. Chance, Causality, Temporality

Edited by Anne Duprat

With Mark Currie, Elie During, Sophie Vlacos 

With a counterpoint by Philippe Carrard

“Chance, causality and temporality” explores the way our familiarity with narrative contributes to our temporal perception of causality. Returning to the principle according to which the written narrative, as a finished process, leaves no room for randomness, the first section of the chapter highlights, on the contrary, the complexity of our perception of the passage of time during the reading experience. The second part then shows that even a philosophy of the relationships between time and narrative as syncretic as Paul Ricœur’s in reality assigns an essential role to the notion of contingency. The third section suggests that time plays a central role in the poetic and cosmological process that allows us to conceive of simultaneity. A final counterpoint complements these three perspectives on the role of chance in the relationships between time and narrative by reflecting upon the use of counterfactual reasoning in the writing of history.


Chapter 2. Chance and Complexity in Narrative.

Edited by John Pier

With Demian Battaglia, Marina Grishakova, Maria Poulaki and Richard Walsh

The five contributions to this chapter bear witness to the shifting outlooks, in complex environments, with regard to the relations between chance and narrative. They discuss how narratives can be seen as the product of a meaning-generating resistance between complexity in nature and cognitive processes or, alternatively, how the complexity of narrative forms is confronted with the complexity of their production and experience in various contexts. Among the topics discussed are “organized chaos” as a source of meaningfulness in art, but also of chance and novelty; the epistemological gap between environment and cognition through which narrative form is imposed; narrative as complexity system characterized by irreversibility, bifurcation points and dissipative structures; contingency in the cinematic medium that reinforces the tension between registering chance, the reality of life as it happens, and the structuring of chance through narrative. The chapter ends by suggesting that the contributions are bound together by three “entropy flavours”: how chaos, disorder and uncertainty are perceived, sometimes with an element of surprise; how “noise” in a complex system is transformed into a semantic explosion; how the search for complexity in randomness separates contingencies into “aleatory” and “organized” forms of complexity.


Chapter 3. Chance in Philosophy and Science. Beyond Ontologies and Theologies.

Edited by Divya Dwivedi

With Michel Bitbol, Zeynep Direk and Maël Montévil.

This chapter brings together considerations of ontology, practical philosophy, and philosophy of science. It examines “chance” and various related terms with respect to the fundamental considerations of ontology, marking their distance from both theology and scientism. It also investigates the scope of the concept of “chance” through a clarification of questions pertaining to temporality, human action, responsibility, free will and destiny. It ultimately displaces the ontological questions pertaining to the concept of chance from the domain of claims about the reality of the world to the domain of claims about co-existence which is relational and futural in both intra– and inter-species terms. Thus, rather than providing evidence for an intrinsic ontological indeterminacy in nature, the randomness that arises in quantum physics is co-produced and interfacial, emerging from the interrelation and entanglement of the human agent and the environment in which they are immersed. In biology, randomness in the form of genetic variations generates new possibilities for organisms in the context of interacting constraints. However, accelerated and disruptive forms of randomization such as those associated with climate change lead to the collapse of the possibilities that were actively sustained by biological organizations. Finally, the question of responsibility and collective action within the Anthropocene is addressed via Derrida’s reflections on chance, which allow us to reimagine the relationship between human beings and nature against the backdrop of temporal complexities. Chance is not an ontological certainty but a tool for generating possibilities within reciprocal relations across time.


Chapter 4. Doing the Right Thing: Moral Luck and Ethical Challenges in Literature

Edited by Enrica Zanin

With Barbara Carnevali, Anthony Mangeon and Matthias Roick

With a counterpoint by Christian Walter

English translation by Martyn Back

Our moral life is inevitably subject to chance. Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel are among those who contend that ethical deliberations are affected by “moral luck”, as we all act without full control over the circumstances and consequences of our actions. While philosophy, since Aristotle, has sought in vain to resolve the tension between our right-thinking will and the accidental, chance-ridden reality of the choices we make, literature, since Oedipus Rex, has suggested ways of understanding the interplay of ethics and chance. The interpretative process turns the experience of the weight of chance in ethical deliberation into a source of emotion and pleasure. From the Iliad to recent novels, fiction allows us to experience and evaluate possible worlds where moral luck is present to varying degrees. Literature teaches us to assess the quality of decisions and to explore the practical skills and strategies that may be implemented to react to complex circumstances.

The counterpoint to this chapter examines the role played by representations of chance in triggering the 2008 economic crisis. The crisis revealed the danger inherent in the oversimplified models of chance that prevailed in banking’s risk management methods. In finance, ethics and scientific integrity are not independent of chance.


Chapter 5. Creativity and Contingency. Provoking Chance across the Arts.

Edited by Karin Kukkonen

With Ros Ballaster, Guillaume Dumas, Henry Keazor, Juliane Vogel and Michael Wheeler

What role does chance play when artists write, paint, compose or perform? This chapter engages in an exploration of chance and creativity across the arts. Contributors from literary studies, philosophy, art history and cognitive sciences discuss how chance is provoked in artistic practices, how it is embedded in contingent aspects of the production contexts and how artists explicitly reflect on and represent chance in their artworks. Seen from the 4E perspective (i.e., embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended cognition) adopted here, creativity is simultaneously grounded in cognitive processes and embedded in cultural and historical contexts. On this basis, the article presents a range of case studies, with examples from the early modern period to the present day, in order to map out the different ways in which artists embed contingent “breaking points” in established individual and collective creative practices and protocols.


Chapter 6. Chance in Games

By Olivier Caïra

With a counterpoint by Sophie Chevalier

English translation by Martyn Back

The role of chance in games has evolved rapidly since the mid-twentieth century. Games rely not only on artefacts designed to calibrate uncertainty, but also on psychological dispositions that allow us to engage with the action of the game despite its futility. This means that the choices that are made during play are guided not only by more or less random mechanisms (from chess to roulette) but also by how lucky we feel. Instead of pitting the agôn against the alea, most contemporary game designers mobilise chance in innovative ways: by randomising roles, environments or even rules; by uncoupling the notions of chance and luck; or by using lot-drawing to build stories. Games and gambling create situations that reconcile tactical decision-making with moments of loss of control that occur when chance intervenes, as in horse-racing, for instance.


Chapter 7. Chance and Language

Edited by Valentina Bisconti

With Francesco La Mantia and Raffaele Simone

English translation by Martyn Back

Western linguistic thought has traditionally been concerned with the issue of the nature of language. Are languages shaped by randomness or necessity? Do they proceed freely, or do they follow obligatory paths? Are words natural or arbitrary? These questions have given rise to different theories. Languages have been considered in turn as shaped by arbitrariness and so developing out of the control of the speaker, or as designed by necessity due to the biological properties of the speaker. The debate about chance in languages then involves the role of the speaker, who turns out to be neither an inert subject nor a computing machine, but an incomplete, often confusing actor of language, always looking for symmetries, analogies, regularities and correspondences. This chapter illustrates the dialectic of the two domains, first in terms of the history of linguistic ideas, then through the description of language facts and finally by discussing a non-abstract model of the speaker.

Citer ce billet
Réseau ALEA (2024, 9 janvier). Figures of Chance II (Routledge 2024) Table of Contents. ALEA. Consulté le 21 avril 2024, à l’adresse

Vous aimerez aussi...

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search