Complexity and philosophy

In [Book Chapter] (in Press) (2006)
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The science of complexity is based on a new way of thinking that stands in sharp contrast to the philosophy underlying Newtonian science, which is based on reductionism, determinism, and objective knowledge. This paper reviews the historical development of this new world view, focusing on its philosophical foundations. Determinism was challenged by quantum mechanics and chaos theory. Systems theory replaced reductionism by a scientifically based holism. Cybernetics and postmodern social science showed that knowledge is intrinsically subjective. These developments are being integrated under the header of “complexity science”. Its central paradigm is the multi-agent system. Agents are intrinsically subjective and uncertain about their environment and future, but out of their local interactions, a global organization emerges. Although different philosophers, and in particular the postmodernists, have voiced similar ideas, the paradigm of complexity still needs to be fully assimilated by philosophy. This will throw a new light on old philosophical issues such as relativism, ethics and the role of the subject.



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Francis Heylighen
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Citations of this work

Complexity and language contact: A socio-cognitive framework.Albert Bastardas-Boada - 2017 - In Salikoko Mufwene, F. Pellegrino & C. Coupé (eds.), Complexity in language. Developmental and evolutionary perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 218-243.
Towards a complex-figurational socio-linguistics.Albert Bastardas-Boada - 2014 - History of the Human Sciences 27 (3):55-75.

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