The complexsystems approach (CSA) to characterizing cognitive function is purported to underlie a conceptual and methodological revolution by its proponents. I examine one central claim from each of the contributed papers and argue that the provided examples do not justify calls for radical change in how we do cognitive science. Instead, I note how currently available approaches in ‘‘standard’’ cognitive science are adequate (or even more appropriate) for understanding the CSA provided examples.
Complexsystems research is becoming ever more important in both the natural and social sciences. It is commonly implied that there is such a thing as a complex system, different examples of which are studied across many disciplines. However, there is no concise definition of a complex system, let alone a definition on which all scientists agree. We review various attempts to characterize a complex system, and consider a core set of features that are widely (...) associated with complexsystems in the literature and by those in the field. We argue that some of these features are neither necessary nor sufficient for complexity, and that some of them are too vague or confused to be of any analytical use. In order to bring mathematical rigour to the issue we then review some standard measures of complexity from the scientific literature, and offer a taxonomy for them, before arguing that the one that best captures the qualitative notion of the order produced by complexsystems is that of the Statistical Complexity. Finally, we offer our own list of necessary conditions as a characterization of complexity. These conditions are qualitative and may not be jointly sufficient for complexity. We close with some suggestions for future work. (shrink)
Despite the close connection between the central limit theorem and renormalization group (RG) methods, the latter should be considered fundamentally distinct from the kind of probabilistic framework associated with statistical mechanics, especially the notion of averaging. The mathematics of RG is grounded in dynamical systems theory rather than probability, which raises important issues with respect to the way RG generates explanations of physical phenomena. I explore these differences and show why RG methods should be considered not just calculational tools (...) but the basis for a physical understanding of complexsystems in terms of structural properties and relations. (shrink)
Part I [sections 2–4] draws out the conceptual links between modern conceptions of teleology and their Aristotelian predecessor, briefly outlines the mode of functional analysis employed to explicate teleology, and develops the notion of cybernetic organisation in order to distinguish teleonomic and teleomatic systems. Part II is concerned with arriving at a coherent notion of intentional control. Section 5 argues that intentionality is to be understood in terms of the representational properties of cybernetic systems. Following from this, section (...) 6 argues that intentional control needs to be seen as a particular type of relationship between the system and its environment. (shrink)
Complexity and Postmodernism explores the notion of complexity in the light of contemporary perspectives from philosophy and science. The book integrates insights from complexity and computational theory with the philosophical position of thinkers including Derrida and Lyotard. Paul Cilliers takes a critical stance towards the use of the analytical method as a tool to cope with complexity, and he rejects Searle's superficial contribution to the debate.
Some theorists who emphasize the complexity of biological and cognitive systems and who advocate the employment of the tools of dynamical systems theory in explaining them construe complexity and reduction as exclusive alternatives. This paper argues that reduction, an approach to explanation that decomposes complex activities and localizes the components within the complex system, is not only compatible with an emphasis on complexity, but provides the foundation for dynamical analysis. Explanation via decomposition and localization is nonetheless (...) extremely challenging, and an analysis of recent cognitive neuroscience research on memory is used to illustrate what is involved. Memory researchers split between advocating memory systems and advocating memory processes, and I argue that it is the latter approach that provides the critical sort of decomposition and localization for explaining memory. The challenges of linking distinguishable functions with brain processes is illustrated by two examples: competing hypotheses about the contribution of the hippocampus and competing attempts to link areas in frontal cortex with memory processing. (shrink)
In _Complexity and Postmodernism_, Paul Cilliers explores the idea of complexity in the light of contemporary perspectives from philosophy and science. Cilliers offers us a unique approach to understanding complexity and computational theory by integrating postmodern theory into his discussion. _Complexity and Postmodernism_ is an exciting and an original book that should be read by anyone interested in gaining a fresh understanding of complexity, postmodernism and connectionism.
In the last 20 years, a stream of research emerged under the label of „complex problem solving“ (CPS). This research was intended to describe the way people deal with complex, dynamic, and intransparent situations. Complex computer-simulated scenarios were as stimulus material in psychological experiments. This line of research lead to subtle insights into the way how people deal with complexity and uncertainty. Besides these knowledge-rich, realistic, intransparent, complex, dynamic scenarios with many variables, a second line of (...) research used more simple, knowledge-lean scenarios with a low number of variables („minimal complexsystems“, MCS) that have been proposed recently in problem-solving research for the purpose of educational assessment. In both cases, the idea behind the use of microworlds is to increase validity of problem solving tasks by presenting interactive environments that can be explored and controlled by participants while pursuing certain action goals. The main argument presented here is: both types of systems - CPS and MCS – can only be dealt with successfully if causal dependencies between input and output variables are identified and used for system control. System knowledge is necessary for control and intervention. But CPS and MCS differ in their way of how causal dependencies are identified and how the mental model is constructed; therefore, they cannot be compared directly to each other with respect to the cognitive processes that are necessary for solving the tasks. Knowledge-poor MCS tasks address only a small fraction of the cognitive processes and structures needed for knowledge-rich CPS situations. (shrink)
So far, the sciences of complexity have received less attention from philosophers than from scientists. Responding to Salthe’s (Found Sci 15, 4(6):357–367, 2010a ) model of evolution, I focus on its metaphysical implications, asking whether the implications of his canonical developmental trajectory (CDT) must be materialistic as his reading proposes.
The standard assumptions that underlie many conceptual and quantitative frameworks do not hold for many complex physical, biological, and social systems. Complexsystems science clarifies when and why such assumptions fail and provides alternative frameworks for understanding the properties of complexsystems. This review introduces some of the basic principles of complexsystems science, including complexity profiles, the tradeoff between efficiency and adaptability, the necessity of matching the complexity of systems to (...) that of their environments, multiscale analysis, and evolutionary processes. Our focus is on the general properties of systems as opposed to the modeling of specific dynamics; rather than provide a comprehensive review, we pedagogically describe a conceptual and analytic approach for understanding and interacting with the complexsystems of our world. This paper assumes only a high school mathematical and scientific background so that it may be accessible to academics in all fields, decision-makers in industry, government, and philanthropy, and anyone who is interested in systems and society. (shrink)
Complexsystems are dynamic and may show high levels of variability in both space and time. It is often difficult to decide on what constitutes a given complex system, i.e., where system boundaries should be set, and what amounts to substantial change within the system. We discuss two central themes: the nature of system definitions and their ability to cope with change, and the importance of system definitions for the mental metamodels that we use to describe and (...) order ideas about system change. Systems can only be considered as single study units if they retain their identity. Previous system definitions have largely ignored the need for both spatial and temporal continuity as essential attributes of identity. After considering the philosophical issues surrounding identity and system definitions, we examine their application to modeling studies. We outline a set of five alternative metamodels that capture a range of the basic dynamics of complexsystems. Although Holling’s adaptive cycle is a compelling and widely applicable metamodel that fits many complexsystems, there are systems that do not necessarily follow the adaptive cycle. We propose that more careful consideration of system definitions and alternative metamodels for complexsystems will lead to greater conceptual clarity in the field and, ultimately, to more rigorous research. (shrink)
Ecologist Richard Levins argues population biologists must trade‐off the generality, realism, and precision of their models since biological systems are complex and our limitations are severe. Steven Orzack and Elliott Sober argue that there are cases where these model properties cannot be varied independently of one another. If this is correct, then Levins's thesis that there is a necessary trade‐off between generality, precision, and realism in mathematical models in biology is false. I argue that Orzack and Sober's arguments (...) fail since Levins's thesis concerns the pragmatic features of model building not just the formal properties of models. (shrink)
Every essay in this book is original, often highly original, and they will be of interest to practising scientists as much as they will be to philosophers of science — not least because many of the essays are by leading scientists who are currently creating the emerging new complexsystems paradigm. This is no accident. The impact of complexsystems on science is a recent, ongoing and profound revolution. But with a few honourable exceptions, it has (...) largely been ignored by scientists and philosophers alike as an object of reflective study. (shrink)
Complexsystems are used, studied and instantiated in science, with what con-sequences? To be clear and systematic in response it is necessary to distin-guish the consequences, for science, of science using and studying complexsystems, for philosophy of science, of science using and studying complexsystems, for philosophy of science, of philosophy of science modelling sci-ence as a complex system. Each of these is explored in turn, especially. While has been least studied, it (...) will be shown how modelling science as a complex process may change our conception of science and thereby query what a philosophy of science adequate to this complexity might look like. (shrink)
Regularities in natural language systems, despite their cognitive advantages in terms of storage and learnability, often coexist with exceptions, raising the question of whether and why irregularities survive. We offer a complex system perspective on this issue, focusing on the irregular past tense forms in English. Two separate processes affect the overall regularity: new verbs constantly entering the vocabulary in the regular form at low frequency, and transitions in both directions occurring in a narrow frequency range. The introduction (...) of new verbs leads to an increase in regular types, that, entering at low frequencies, have a small impact on the perceived irregularity in terms of tokens. The frequency of usage acts as a control parameter, the majority of verbs types being fully-regular at low frequencies, with no evidence of irregularity facing extinction. Very few verbs types in an intermediate frequency region exhibit both regular and irregular forms at the same time, suggesting that the coexistence is unstable. The observed pattern of usage showing an abrupt change in response to small variations of the control parameter only appears in agent-based models provided that the word state is non-binary. By introducing this key ingredient, high-frequency irregular past-tense can survive the tendency to regularize over time, as observed in natural languages. (shrink)
The domain of nonlinear dynamical systems and its mathematical underpinnings has been developing exponentially for a century, the last 35 years seeing an outpouring of new ideas and applications and a concomitant confluence with ideas of complexsystems and their applications from irreversible thermodynamics. A few examples are in meteorology, ecological dynamics, and social and economic dynamics. These new ideas have profound implications for our understanding and practice in domains involving complexity, predictability and determinism, equilibrium, control, planning, (...) individuality, responsibility and so on. Our intention is to draw together in this volume, we believe for the first time, a comprehensive picture of the manifold philosophically interesting impacts of recent developments in understanding nonlinear systems and the unique aspects of their complexity. The book will focus specifically on the philosophical concepts, principles, judgments and problems distinctly raised by work in the domain of complex nonlinear dynamical systems, especially in recent years. -Comprehensive coverage of all main theories in the philosophy of ComplexSystems -Clearly written expositions of fundamental ideas and concepts -Definitive discussions by leading researchers in the field -Summaries of leading-edge research in related fields are also included. (shrink)
In recent debates mechanisms are often discussed in the context of ‘complexsystems’ which are understood as having a complicated compositional structure. I want to draw the attention to another, radically different kind of complex system, in fact one that many scientists regard as the only genuine kind of complex system. Instead of being compositionally complex these systems rather exhibit highly non-trivial dynamical patterns on the basis of structurally simple arrangements of large numbers of (...) non-linearly interacting constituents. The characteristic dynamical patterns in what I call “dynamically complexsystems” arise from the interaction of the system’s parts largely irrespective of many properties of these parts. Dynamically complexsystems can exhibit surprising statistical characteristics, the robustness of which calls for an explanation in terms of underlying generating mechanisms. However, I want to argue, dynamically complexsystems are not sufficiently covered by the available conceptions of mechanisms. I will explore how the notion of a mechanism has to be modified to accommodate this case. Moreover, I will show under which conditions the widespread, if not inflationary talk about mechanisms in complexsystems stretches the notion of mechanisms beyond its reasonable limits and is no longer legitimate. (shrink)
The arts are one of the most complex of human endeavours, and so it is fitting that a special issue on ComplexSystems in Aesthetics and Arts is being published. As the editors of this special issue, we would like to thank the reviewers of the submitted papers for their hard work in making this issue possible, as well as the authors who submitted their work and were very responsive to the comments of the reviewers and editors.
How might we usefully apply concepts and procedures derived from the study of other complex dynamical systems to analyzing systemic change in education? In this article we begin to define possible agendas for research toward developing systematic frameworks and shared terminology for such a project. We illustrate the plausibility of defining such frameworks and raise the question of the relation between such frameworks and the crucial task of aggregating data across ‘systemic experiments’, such as those conducted under the (...) Urban Systemic Initiative sponsored by the US National Science Foundation. Our discussion includes a review of key issues identified by groups of researchers regarding Defining the System, Structural Analysis, Relationships Among Subsystems and Levels, Drivers for Change, and Modeling Methods. (shrink)
For a long time, linguists more or less denied the existence of individual differences in grammatical knowledge. While recent years have seen an explosion of research on individual differences, most usage-based research has failed to address this issue and has remained reluctant to study the synergy between individual and community grammars. This paper focuses on individual differences in linguistic knowledge and processing, and examines how these differences can be integrated into a more comprehensive constructionist theory of grammar. The examination is (...) guided by the various challenges and opportunities that may be extracted from scattered research that exists across disciplines touching on these matters, while also presenting some new data that illustrate how differentiation between individuals can improve models of long-term language change. The paper also serves as the introduction to this special issue of Cognitive Linguistics, which collects seven contributions from various linguistic disciplines focusing on key aspects of individuals’ grammars. (shrink)
In this article, network science is discussed from a methodological perspective, and two central theses are defended. The first is that network science exploits the very properties that make a system complex. Rather than using idealization techniques to strip those properties away, as is standard practice in other areas of science, network science brings them to the fore, and uses them to furnish new forms of explanation. The second thesis is that network representations are particularly helpful in explaining the (...) properties of non-decomposable systems. Where part-whole decomposition is not possible, network science provides a much-needed alternative method of compressing information about the behavior of complexsystems, and does so without succumbing to problems associated with combinatorial explosion. The article concludes with a comparison between the uses of network representation analyzed in the main discussion, and an entirely distinct use of network representation that has recently been discussed in connection with mechanistic modeling. (shrink)
A key topic in the work of Burghard Rieger is the notion of meaning. To explore this notion, he and his collaborators developed a most sophisticated approach combining theoretical ideas and concepts of semiotics with empirical and numerical tools of computational linguistics. In the present contribution, relations of Rieger’s achievements to some issues of interest in the physics and philosophy of complexsystems will be addressed.
Consciousness has been the bone of contention for philosophers throughout centuries. Indian philosophy largely adopted lived experience as the starting point for its explorations of consciousness. For this reason, from the very beginning, experience was an integral way of grasping consciousness, whose validity as a tool was considered self-evident. Thus, in Indian philosophy, the question was not to move from the brain to mind but to understand experience of an individual and how such an experience is determined through mental structures (...) (and secondarily, the preoccupation with the brain and its relation to the mind). In contrast, cognitive science (the study of mind and cognition through 1 interdisciplinary methods, with emphasis on computational methods) found its debates soaked in discussion which primarily involved the brain and mind. Experience was not considered a primary source of information and its validity had to be established to consider it a source of information of mind. With the rise of physicalism and realization that mental states are correlative to brain states, the body was virtually neglected from involvement in understanding the mind and the attempts to reduce mind to the brain were rampant. The inability to explain subjective experience of an individual through neuroscientific findings alone has urged philosophers to explore other ways of understanding the ontology of mind. Over the last few years, embodied cognition and enactive approach have brought back the body as a central participant in this debate, providing fertile grounds to explain the relation of brain, body and mind. This paper proposes that we understand the brain as a complex system from which the mind emerges. This emergence is marked by the development of novel property of self-consciousness in human beings. The mind is a process which is embedded throughout the body and thus, the body acts as an actualizing medium for the individual. Thus, the brain is a necessary condition for the mind to be while the mind is embedded throughout the body. The brain and mind are in reciprocal causal relationship with one another, as is the body and environment with one another. In this paper, embodied cognition is understood through principles of Merleau Ponty's idea of embodiment, than through Andy Clark and Francis Varela's alone. (shrink)
Some biochemical systems require multiple, well-matched parts in order to function, and the removal of any of the parts eliminates the function. I have previously labeled such systems "irreducibly complex," and argued that they are stumbling blocks for Darwinian theory. Instead I proposed that they are best explained as the result of deliberate intelligent design. In a recent article Shanks and Joplin analyze and find wanting the use of irreducible complexity as a marker for intelligent design. Their (...) primary counterexample is the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, a self-organizing system in which competing reaction pathways result in a chemical oscillator. In place of irreducible complexity they offer the idea of "redundant complexity," meaning that biochemical pathways overlap so that a loss of one or even several components can be accommodated without complete loss of function. Here I note that complexity is a quantitative property, so that conclusions we draw will be affected by how well-matched the components of a system are. I also show that not all biochemical systems are redundant. The origin of non-redundant systems requires a different explanation than redundant ones. (shrink)
Pursuit of every scientific framework — that is, of a paradigm and philosophy for science — is underwritten by a practical act of faith that its cognitive apparatus — including concepts, classes of models and underlying mathematics, and experimental instruments, techniques and interpretations — is adequate to understand the domain concerned. The focus of this essay is the consequences of the cognitive apparatus of complexsystems for methodology, epistemology and metaphysics.
This paper discusses the epistemic status of biology from the standpoint of the systemic approach to living systems based on the notion of biological autonomy. This approach aims to provide an understanding of the distinctive character of biological systems and this paper analyses its theoretical and epistemological dimensions. The paper argues that, considered from this perspective, biological systems are examples of emergent phenomena, that the biological domain exhibits special features with respect to other domains, and that biology (...) as a discipline employs some core concepts, such as teleology, function, regulation among others, that are irreducible to those employed in physics and chemistry. It addresses the claim made by Jacques Monod that biology as a science is marginal. It argues that biology is general insofar as it constitutes a paradigmatic example of complexity science, both in terms of how it defines the theoretical object of study and of the epistemology and heuristics employed. As such, biology may provide lessons that can be applied more widely to develop an epistemology of complexsystems. (shrink)
An overview of the following three related papers in this issue presents the Emergence of Highly ComplexSystems such as living organisms, man, society and the human mind from the viewpoint of the current Ontological Theory of Levels. The ontology of spacetime structures in the Universe is discussed beginning with the quantum level; then, the striking emergence of the higher levels of reality is examined from a categorical—relational and logical viewpoint. The ontological problems and methodology aspects discussed in (...) the first two papers are followed by a rigorous paper based on Category Theory, Algebraic Topology and Logic that provides a conceptual and mathematical basis for a Categorical Ontology Theory of Levels. The essential links and relationships between the following three papers of this issue are pointed out, and further possible developments are being considered. (shrink)