Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whose complexity?

Given that complexity theory is the basis for hierarchical models, whose complexity are they using? Is there more than one variety? Are they similar? Different? I reviving this post to reopen the topic:

Cilliers references Morin in this article, where he says:

"In the first place one has to acknowledge that the 'discipline' of Complexity is a house divided. There are serious differences between different approaches to complexity. After about two or three decades of work explicitly dedicated to the understanding of complex systems, it has become crucial to reflect critically on the value of these different approaches. One way of distinguishing between these approaches is provided by Edgar Morin (2007) who distinguishes between 'general' and 'restricted' complexity. Restricted complexity refers mainly to the mathematical and computational approaches to complexity, often strongly informed by chaos theory. This approach, Morin argues, acknowledges the non-linear, relational nature of complex systems, but seeks to tame it in ways which reintroduces positivism and reductionism. General complexity on the other hand, argues for the limits of all approaches to complex systems and urges that we acknowledge these limits and recognise that we need a new language in which to do this, a language which moves beyond Enlightenment ideals of neutrality and objectivity."

I also noted this about the "science wars" referenced elsewhere, where Prigogine was on the more general, philosophical side of the debate. One main issue is the idea of math being a Platonic ideal or not explored in depth in the "real and false reason" thread.

And from the following post:

Cilliars' article "Complexity, deconstruction and relativism" is instructive is confronting the ill-informed arguments of relativism and performative contradaction within a complexity frame. This passage reveals the hidden positivist and objectivist (i.e., formal) assumption of the argument, one I examined in the real/false reason thread above.

"The performative contradiction is predicated on the assumption that one can adequately distinguish between the performative and the locutionary levels, and, in the terms Habermas uses to criticize Derrida, between logic and rhetoric. However, in order to make this distinction clearly, one would need to take in a position that can characterize what is being said from an external vantage point. In the language of complexity, that would mean that one has access to a framework that is not the result of a strategic choice, i.e. some objective meta-framework. This is exactly what the view from complexity is sceptical about."

We see the same formal assumptions underlying the mathematical model of hierarchical complexity as well as the "restricted" chaos theorists. Again, see the referenced thread.

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