In this short paper, which reflects on one of my contributions to the systems literature in 1992 (Pluralism and the Legitimation of Systems Science), I discuss the context at that time. Systems scientists were embroiled in a paradigm war, which threatened to fragment the systems research community. This is relevant, not only to understanding my 1992 contribution, but also because the same paradigms are evident in the complexity science community, and therefore it potentially faces the same risk of fragmentation. Having explained the context, I then go on to discuss my proposed solution to the paradigm war: that there are four domains of complexity, three of which reflect the competing paradigms. The problem comes when researchers say that inquiry into just one of these domains is valid. However, when we recognise all four as part of a new theory of complexity, we can view them as complementary. The four domains are natural world complexity, or “what is” (where the ideal of inquiry is truth); social world complexity, or the complexity of “what ought to be” in relation to actual or potential action (where the ideal of inquiry is rightness); subjective world complexity, or the complexity of what any individual (the self or another) is thinking, intending or feeling (where the ideal of inquiry is understanding subjectivity); and the complexity of interactions between elements of the other domains of complexity in the context of research and intervention practice. Following a discussion of the relevance of this theory for complexity scientists, I end the paper with a final critical reflection on my 1992 paper, pointing to some theoretical assumptions and terminology that I would, in retrospect, revise.
If no new phenomena emerged in large systems out of the dynamics of systems working at a lower level, then we would need no scientists but particle physicists, since there would be no other areas to cover. But then there would be no particle physicists. — Per Bak Introduction Roger Wolcott Sperry (1913 to 1994) […]
Introduction E:CO is republishing this paper in our Classical Paper section not so much because of its venerable age and influence—it hails from 1992, 24 years ago—but because of its incisiveness, insight, and acumen in examining a crucial issue whose importance has only increased with time, namely, complex systems as integrated wholes. Its author, the […]
Introduction In the previous issue, ECO’s classic paper and my introduction to was Robert May’s pioneering work in chaos theory, in particular an exploration of the by now iconic logistic map and its display of a period-doubling route to the onset of chaos. In one of those odd coincidences not infrequently found during the course […]
In this and the next issue of E:CO, we are reprinting two classic papers emanating from and even generating much of the ground swell of burgeoning enthusiasm for chaos theory forty years ago. Yes, it’s been that long! These papers were among the first to explore the nature of bifurcation, attractors, and chaos as discovered in complex systems through developing new mathematical tools and conceptual frameworks. These papers are truly foundational in their ramifications and implications and yet come across as fresh as if they were written yesterday.
Introduction It is quite fitting that Walter Buckley’s paper “Mind, Mead and Mental Behaviorism” has been selected as the classic paper contribution for this special issue of Emergence: Complexity and Organization (E:CO) concerning human interaction dynamics and complex adaptive systems. The paper presents a discussion of the dynamics of fine-grained interactions from the agent’s perspective. […]
The hard problem of emergence is its property of self-transcendence I first read this classic paper on emergence by the American philosopher Paul Henle over ten years ago. Rereading it, I am surprised by several themes which did not strike me so the first time around. First is Henle’s early avowal—this article is after all […]
Michael Polanyi’s concepts of tacit knowing and emergence are foundational to complexity thinking. The purpose of this essay is to question Polanyi’s ways of theorizing the concepts in order to develop lines of inquiry that warrant contemporary examination. One contribution is to look at several types of tacit in Polanyi’s work so that they might be compared in future investigations. This contribution centers on the occurrences of transcendental and moral reasoning in what is purported to otherwise be a pragmatist view of the world. A second contribution is to question hierarchical-ordering in emergence theory in order to move from systems to complexity formulations. I shall argue that both tacit knowing and emergence are mired in systems thinking views of hierarchic order of reality.
Background The Classical Paper of this issue was written in 1939 by the philosopher W. T. Stace who argued against the metaphysical viability of emergence in a manner similar to that found in two previous reprints in E:CO, namely, that of Stephen Pepper (1926, 2004) and Charles Baylis (1929, 2006). Stace, born in London and […]
Emergence is not ordinary change: Introduction to Baylis The idea of emergence in its complexity science sense was first broached by adherents of Emergent Evolutionism, a loosely joined movement of scientists, philosophers, historians, social thinkers, and even theologians during the first quarter of the twentieth century (Blitz, 1992). Included among the proponents of Emergent Evolutionism […]
Introduction to Pondy’s “Beyond open system models of organization” I was in his office, when Louis R. Pondy read the letter rejecting his 1976 article at Administrative Science Quarterly by decision of the editor, calling him a member of the “cute school” of organization theory. The paper was revised, with Ian I. Mitroff (Pondy & […]
Introduction In a recent book, Haas and Drabek (1973) categorize organization research into eight perspectives or conceptual models – rational, classical, human relations, natural system, conflict, exchange, technological, and open system models – and add a ninth of their own, a stress-strain model. Their typology, like most typologies that have been developed to describe approaches […]
What is inside and what is on top? Complex systems and hierarchies In the days – about a decade ago – when a start was made to apply complexity theory to all sorts of real-world problems like social systems and organizations, the notion of ‘hierarchy’ came under pressure. A number of important insights were responsible […]
The organized complexity of living organisms: Walter Elsasser’s contributions to complexity theory A nonlinear life and career The work of the German/American physicist turned theoretical biologist Walter Elsasser (1904-1991) is unfortunately little known today even though he made important discoveries in several scientific fields and played a key role in introducing the notion of organized […]
Introduction It is the curse of those who try to create new ideas to be forever stumbling over the same ideas in long forgotten papers. As a defence mechanism we periodically change the language and the boundaries of our disciplines so that we can confidently discount ‘out of date’ ideas as belonging to a previous […]