In this paper I introduce features of the context of argument related to the status of complexity theory and then move towards a description of Ricoeur’s theorizations on metaphor. I extend the discussion of Ricoeur’s hermeneutic by comparison with the ideas of Lakoff and Johnson on metaphor (influenced by cognitive science as well as Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology) and show correlations which link diverse theorization on the significance of metaphoric theorization. I further extend the description of correlations between Ricoeur’s ideas on symbolism and complexity theory exemplars centered on the conception of ‘emergence’. These perspectives are contextualized relative to the debate concerning whether complexity ought to be conceived as a series of ‘local’ instances or cases, or a ‘universalized’ theory. I extend the view that the mobility of complexity metaphor has created an expansive epistemology within the social sciences and that the resistance to ‘transcendent’ truth — especially felt within attitudes towards ontology within poststructuralist influences on complexity theorization — render problematic the expansion of complexity as a coherent body of theory within the social sciences. It is suggested that a view of phenomenology which acknowledges the role of metaphor and does not have the same problem with ‘transcendent’ truth — setting the arche firmly within the epistemic realm (i.e., Ricoeur’s hermeneutic of metaphor, and related theorization) — might resolve this problem, and also make positive reading of the role of metaphor in complexity studies.
Recent studies in Organizational theory have directed themselves towards poststructuralist interpretation. A variant of such interpretation is based on theorists derived from the traditions of phenomenology. Letiche’s PCT is examined as a derivative case of this theorization. Complexity theory is also scrutinized, relative to arguments of the theorist Derrida (especially), but also Bergson. It is argued that complexity theory illustrates problems relative to the application of phenomenological theorization which relate in part to the difficulties of the analogical transfer of theories derived in the physical (or natural) sciences to the social world. A debate on the philosophical status of phenomenology (especially related to Derrida’s differance) presents a new angle on the extensibility of complexity to the human realm. This aspect impinges on the issue of the value and implications of the ‘linguistic’ turn relative to the complexity theory enterprise.
This article1 relates to the new sciences as modes of management analogy, but, more broadly, it argues a case for the symbolic interpretation of a variety of theories of a qualitative nature. The article is in part concerned with the nature of metaphor and its claim to knowledge—as well as the adequacy of the treatment […]