Thermodynamic imperative

Waste not free energy
A 1915 interpretation of Wilhelm Ostwald's energy imperative principle, "waste not free energy; treasure it and make the best use of it", by American physiologist William Bayliss, which he says has application to the waste involved in war as well as the cost of printed books. [5] This, however, may have been a secondary interpretation or translation (introduced by Bayliss?), as the specific phrase waste not free energy (abfall nicht freie energie), does not seem to be found in the original German; although the term "freie energie", to note, is found on 14 pages. [6]
In hmolscience, thermodynamic imperative is an ethics theory or scientific guideline, in philosophical thermodynamics, on how to live, based on the universal laws, either the first law, second law, or both.

The imperative has been stated various ways over the year, some more correct than others, and seem to have their roots in
German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s 1785 categorical imperative, but framed on either the first, second, or combined laws of thermodynamics.

The idea for introducing the energetics-based ethics is that in absence of any other ethics, one cannot take a single step forward without being guided by some criterion of right and wrong. [9] The absence of an agreed-upon system of ethics can possibly have been marked by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1882 proclamation that “God is dead”, after which it can be said that belief in religion began to decline. Without religion, however, one is left with a void in an agreed-upon criterion of right and wrong actions, with which to step forward.
Immanuel Kant ns
Kant | Categorical imperative
The first imperative seems to have been German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s 1785 categorical imperative and his idea of universal moral law. A categorical imperative, on the other hand, denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation: [8]

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

The shortened version of Kant’s categorical ethical imperative reads: [10]

“Act that your conduct may be taken as a universal law.”

To updated this statement, in 1865 German physicist Rudolf Clausius penned the two universal laws of the universe: (a) the energy of the universe is constant; (b) the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum; hence, soon thereafter, people began to marinade on how to update Kant based on Clausius, as to how points A and B apply to one's actions and conduct; which is not a simple matter.

Wilhelm Ostwald nsOstwald | Energetic imperative
In 1912, German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald was the first to attempt an entire 500+ page book on a thermodynamic-based imperative, namely The Energetic Imperative, in which he outlined his “energetic imperative” which has a variety of difficult translations.
In 2008, German entropy historian Helge Kragh summarizes the imparative as such: [1]

“The principle message of Ostwald’s energetic imperative was ‘waste no energy; turn it all to account!”

Kragh states that the essential statement of the imperative comes from page thirteen of Die Energetische Imperativ, in particular: “Vergeude keine Energie, verwerte sie!”, which according to straight Google translation reads: “do not waste energy, recycle it!” The difficulty here is that the English translation of “verwerten”, can mean to exploit, to utilize, to turn to account, or to realize. [15] Likewise, the term "verwerte sie", according to Google translation, can read either as recover it or recycle it. These six different meanings, obviously, complicates the interpretation. [15] The original full paragraph reads:

Ich kann an dieser Stelle nicht alle die Stufen energetischer Betrachtungsweise schildern, welche ich weiterhin zurückgelegt habe, und begnüge mich damit, die letzte zu kennzeichnen, die mir in ganz unerwarteter Weise ein neues Feld fruchtbarster Arbeit eröffnet hat. Jene Anwendungen des energetischen Denkens auf immer menschlichere und unmittelbarere Gebiete des Lebens hatte mir schon vor einigen Jahren die Formel des energetischen Imperativs gegeben, nämlich die Zusammenfassung der beiden Hauptsätze in dem Wort:

Vergeude keine Energie, verwerte sie!

Eine neue Erkenntnis ist in diesem energetischen Imperativ nicht vorhanden, wohl aber stellt diese kurze und leicht verständliche Fassung ein Werkzeug dar, dessen Vielseitigkeit und Wirksamkeit sich gegenwärtig auch denen aufdrängt, die mit der ursprünglichen wissenschaftlichen Energetik gar keine weiteren Beziehungen haben. Mir ist in so mannigfaltiger Weise beschrieben worden, wie überall die Anwendung des energetischen Imperativs im täglichen Leben jedem einzelnen Förderung, Erleichterung, Erfrischung und ganz allgemein Steigerung der Lebenstätigkeit zu bringen vermag, daß ich in dieser kurzen Formel tatsächlich das Symbol empfinde, in welchem sich meine bisherige gesamte Arbeit am deutlichsten zusammenfassen läßt. Gleichzeitig ist der energetische Imperativ das Symbol, das richtunggebend und entscheidend für den Rest an Arbeit bleiben wird, der mir zu tun noch vorbehalten ist. Diese Arbeit vollzieht sich in zwei Rahmen, im Monistenbunde und in der Brücke
I can describe at this point not all the energy levels approach, which I still back down and shall content myself with the last mark, which has given me quite unexpectedly, in a new field most fruitful work. Those applications of energy had thought for ever more human and more immediate areas of life given to me several years ago, the formula of the energetic imperative, namely the merger of the two main movements in the word:

Do not waste energy, instead realize it!

A new finding in this energetic imperative does not exist, but this is short and easy to understand text is a tool, whose versatility and efficacy at present imposes itself even to those with the original scientific energetics have no further relationship. I have been described in so many ways, as everywhere can use the energy imperative in daily life each and every promotion, relief, refreshment, and generally to bring increased life activity that I am actually in this brief formula feel the symbol in which the summarized all my previous work can be most clearly. At the same time the energetic imperative, the symbol that is directive and remain essential for the rest to work, to do me without notice. This work is accomplished in two frames in Monistenbund and in the bridge

The essential point of his energy imperative, is that Ostwald argued that the second law asserts that no being can live without dissipating energy, but the energy imperative focuses attention on responsible ways of living in an energy based world. Ostwald even put this into formulation, a theory of happiness (see: Ostwald happiness formula), mathematically states as:


where G is Gluck (happiness), A is Arbeit (energy expended in doing useful work), and W is Widerstand (energy dissipated in overcoming resistance). Another shortened translation is: [1]

“Waste no energy; turn it all to account.”

According to the 1916 translation/interpretation of Ramiro de Maeztu, Ostwald’s imperative commands not that we shall serve human solidarity, but rather: [9]

“Do not waste energy; give it a value.”

In 1914, Ostwald's imperative was summarized by American chemist Edwin Slosson as: [11]

“We call one automobile ‘good’ and another ‘bad’ if the former will carry us twice as far as the latter on the same amount of gasoline consumed. A ‘good’ friend is one who helps us in our endeavors through judicious advice and without annoyance, while a ‘poor’ friend only multiplies our difficulties; here again goodness and badness are determined by the ratio of the total energy employed and the results obtained. It is this second principle of thermodynamics, the law of the degradation and dissipation of energy, that prevents us from undoing the past, that gives significance to such phrases as ‘time flies’ and ‘the world moves.’ The cosmic process is not a reversible reaction.”

In 1967, Paul Edwards, in his Encyclopedia of Philosophy, described Ostwald’s imperative as: [14]

“Do not waste your energy.”

This reduction, however, seems to have little connection to the original connotation. George Fleck's 1993 version states that: [7]

“Dissipate no energy, but strive to use energy by converting it into more useful forms.”

Bayliss excerpt (1915)
The key explanation section by Bayliss, wherein he summarizes to the effect that the combined statements of the laws of the universe, made by Clausius, Helmholtz, Gibbs, Thomson, and Carnot, amount to the effect that "free energy is always striving to a minimum." This, curiously, is a very advanced view for 1915. [5]

Bayliss | Free energy imperative
In 1915, English physiologist William Bayliss, in his Principles of General Physiology, specifically in his chapter on the thermodynamics of physiology, cites Ostwald's energetic imperative, but having a decent grasp of the views of Willard Gibbs (available energy) and Hermann Helmholtz (free energy and bound energy), states that Ostwald's version of the imperative, should not be solely based on the first law, but on both the first and second law, whereby the imperative should correctly be stated as: [5]

“Waste not free energy; treasure it and make the best use of it.”

The use of "free energy" vs. energy, to note, as introduced here by Bayliss involves a huge complification of ideas, greatly more involved it seems that Ostwald had originally intended. Nevertheless, this insertion or updated interpretation, by Bayliss, is very cogent; although, to note, it is not as modern as it could be in that it does not touch on the initial state and final state of reactions and energy changes involved in the dynamics of human chemical bonds.

Interestingly, Bayliss posits that his “waste not free energy; treasure it and make the best use of it” principle can be fortuitously applied to the waste involved in war. This postulate, can be connected to English writer John Lyly’s circa 1578 axiom “all’s fair in love and war”. [16]

In 1917, the Bayliss-interpretation of Ostwald's impartive was being presented as by American sociologist William Thomas: [12]

“A child needs less repression and more guiding in activity. Ostwald's Imperative of Energetics with its rule, ‘Waste no free energy; treasure it and make the best use of it,’ is one of the most important principles of education. Direct children to use their free energy by cultivation of habits and by training in the use of initiative. Do not cultivate weariness; do not smooth over weariness by mere overstimulation; but see that the child often enough uses all his energies with a full expression of all his capacity.”

It is unclear, however, at this point, if Thomas culled this from Bayliss, although this seems to be the case? In 1922, psychologist Robert Givler does cite Bayliss and his Principles of General Physiology, as follows: [13]

“It is essential, however, that we understand just what it means to ‘suffer an exception’ in physiological terms. For every exception that is allowed reveals the secret wish to return to the old habit— it means that some part of our personality desired the exception to occur. And such a wish is really nervous and muscular energy whose release has been conditioned by a stimulus either in the outer environment or within the body. Hence the wiser teaching is either to remove oneself from any environment or person who elicits the habitual reaction, rather than to grit one's teeth in an effort to call upon his ‘will power.’ Dogged effort is not necessarily wise; it may, indeed, be wasteful or harmful. Herein lies the value of Ostwald's Imperative of Energetics: ‘Waste not free energy; treasure it and make the best use of it.’ For the man who is not frank and bold enough to give up even that family or acquaintance who has become the conditioning stimulus for a habit that lessens his good can scarcely hope to succeed in developing his best traits to their maximum perfection. As valuable as a reasonable amount of ‘self-control’ may be, in comparison to a sagacious control of the environment it pales into insignificance.”

Thus it does seem that Bayliss may have been the one to introduce "free energy" into the imperative. A 1945 version by Samuel Brody is: [18]

“Waste not free energy: treasure it and make the best use of it.”

In 2007, Brazilian-American chemical engineer Edison Bittencourt quotes the “waste not free energy” idiom, suggesting that it should be taught to chemical engineering students to help understand how thermodynamics applies to society and economics, but attributes the quote to Ostwald. [17]
Bruce Lindsay
Lindsay's imperative
In the 1910s and 1920s, through the work of Ludwig Boltzmann (1876-1895), Max Planck (1900-1914), and Walther Nernst (1893-1926), and the principle of elementary disorder, entropy began to be associated with ideas on order and disorder, and these in turn soon thereafter began to be incorporated into the imperative.

The term "thermodynamic imperative" was introduced in the lectures of American physicist Robert Lindsay in his physics classes at Brown University prior to 1959, later popularized in his 1963 book The Role of Science in Civilization, among other talks. [2]

“The second law conveys, to me, the distinct suggestion that we as individuals should endeavor to consume as much entropy as possible to increase the order in our environment. This is the thermodynamic imperative, possibly not unworthy to rank alongside the categorical imperative of Kant or even the golden rule.”
— Bruce Lindsay (1970), “The Larger Cybernetics” (pg. 134)

Lindsay's version of the imperative states, based on the oft-reasoned generalized tendency that the universe (or systems) tend towards disorder, as embodied in second law, that one should fight the law as vigorously as possible “to increase the degree of order in their environment so as to combat the natural tendency for order in the universe to be transformed into disorder.” [1]
In short, Lindsay's thermodynamic imperative is a type of ethics based on reducing entropy to the minimum or, in other words, increasing negentropy to the maximum, and for his theories on how humans should have guidelines on how to live and behave based on the laws of thermodynamics and what he called the entropy concept of human consumption. [3] His generalized living principle is what he called the thermodynamic imperative states that: [2]

“While we do live we ought always to act in all things in such a way as to produce as much order in our environment as possible.”

In this sense, Lindsay reasons that since every human process or action exhibits an increase in entropy, everything one does leaves a mark in one’s thermodynamic system, irrevocably. Hence, to counter this tendency, according to Lindsay, we should follow a certain code of conduct in life based on thermodynamics. [4] In more detail, according to Lindsay, the following statement (the thermodynamic imperative) might serve as a “satisfactory basis for an ethical code”: [2]

“All men should fight always as vigorously as possible to increase the degree of order in their environment, i.e. consume as much entropy as possible, in order to combat the natural tendency for entropy to increase and for order in the universe to be transformed into disorder, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics.”


Modern views
A number of people in recent years have spun out variations of this theme, such as Jack Hokikian's 2002 order-disorder view of morality, Dick Hammond's 2005 "entropy ethics" teaching workshops, among others.

1. Kragh, Helge. (2008). Entropic Creation: Religious Contexts of Thermodynamics and Cosmology (pg. 229). Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
2. Lindsay, Robert B. (1963). The Role of Science in Civilization, (section: "Information Theory and Thermodynamics: Entropy", pgs. 153-65; section: "A Scientific Analogy: The Thermodynamic Imperative", pgs. 290-98). Westport: Greenwood Press. Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross.
3. (a) Hammond, Dick K. (2005). The Human System from Entropy to Ethics (pgs. 12-14). Publisher: Dick Hammond.
(b) Page reference in the 1942 issue of Sigma Xi Quarterly.
4. Hokikian, Jack. (2002). The Science of Disorder (pg. 231). Los Feliz Publishing.
5. Bayliss, William M. (1915). Principles of General Physiology (ch. II Energetics (thermodynamics), pgs. 27-47). Longmans, Green, and Co.
6. Ostwald, Wilhelm. (1912). Der Energetische Imperativ (The Energetic Imperative) (freie energie, 14 results, pgs. 56-57, 60, 72-73, 75, 77, 79, 83-86, 92, 171). Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft.
7. Fleck, George. (1993). “1909 Nobel Laureate: Wilhelm Ostwald, 1853-1932”; in: Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901-1992 (pgs. 61-66; esp. 66), edited by Laylin K. James. Chemical Heritage Foundation.
8. Kant, Immanuel. (1933). Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (pg. 30); translated by James W. Ellington [1785]. 3rd ed. Hackett.
9. Maeztu, Ramiro. (1916). Authority, Liberty, and Function in the Light of War: a critique of authority and liberty as the foundations of the modern state and an attempt to base societies on the principle of function (pg. 73). G. Allen & Unwin Ltd.
10. Stokes, Kenneth M. (1995). Paradigm Lost: A Cultural and Systems Theoretical Critique of Political Economy (pg. 136). M.E. Sharpe.
11. Slosson, Edwin E. (1914). Major Prophets of Today (ch. 5: Wilhelm Ostwald, pgs. 190-241, esp. 199-207; quote, pg. 204). Little, Brown.
12. Thomas, William I. (1917). “The Persistence of Primary-Group Norms in Present-day Society and Their Influence in Our Educational System”; in: Suggestions of Modern Science Concerning Education (pgs. 157-198, esp. 142-43). MacMillan.
13. Givler, Robert C. (1922). Psychology: the Science of Human Behavior (pg. 257). Harper & Brothers.
14. Edwards, Paul. (1967). Encyclopedia of Philosophy (pg. 6). MacMillan.
15. Verwerten (German → English) –
16. (a) Lyly, John. (1578). Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit (quote: “The rules of fair play do not apply in love and war”, note: exact quote not found). London.
(b) Euphues (1578) – Wikipedia.
(c) Apperson, George L., and Manser, Apperson, M. (2006). Dictionary of Proverbs (pg. 355). Wordsworth Editions.
(d) Krieger, Richard A. (2002). Civilization’s Quotations: Life’s Ideal (pg. 49). Algora Publishing.
17. Bittencourt, Edison. (2007). “Thermodynamics of Irreversible Processes and the Teaching of Thermodynamics in Chemical Engineering”, International Latin American and Caribbean Conference for Engineering and Technology, 29 May – 01 Jun.

Further reading
‚óŹ Polgar, Steven. (1961). “Evolution and the Thermodynamic Imperative” (abs) , Human Biology, May; 33: 99-109.

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