[Next] [Previous] [Top] [Contents]

What is Complexity? - The philosophy of complexity per se with application to some examples in evolution

2 Complexity as a paradigm

Some authors
*1 use complexity as a paradigm of some sort of holism. In this case it indicates that the authors consider many systems to be unameanable to a reductionist/Newtonian scientific method or analysis.*2 They suggest that any attempt to cope with complexity using such traditional tools is doomed to failure. Their remedies vary from a complete abandonment of scientific method to introducing new techniques and approaches.

The problem with this approach to complexity is that is does not allow for many meaningful comparisons w.r.t. complexity; a whole spectrum of statements of the form "x is more complex than y" are rendered trivial. From this point of view of paradigmatic complexity, the starting point of evolution is simple, as it is amenable to a reductionist approach, while the end point (us) is complex. At some point (presumably) there is a transition from simple to complex. We are left with a single catastrophe from a system amenable to reductionist science to one that is not, with no prior or subsequent development of this characteristic being counted as meaningful. Since we are interested in discovering the mechanism of complexity emergence, this is very unhelpful. Here I will take the pragmatic approach that many systems are practically intractable by such traditional methods and likely to remain so for some time, so that the broader question becomes a purely philosophical issue, which I will henceforth ignore.

Of course, any constructive suggestions for dealing with "complexity" are welcome, from whatever source. Thus all the techniques of the new sciences of "Complexity" are welcome techniques for studying what have been considered intractable systems. Here we have a second, softer, paradigm of complexity as a banner under which a clutch of new techniques and methodology is making some headway with hitherto intractable systems. Many of these techniques, however, have nothing to do with complexity per se. Thus many papers with the word "complexity" in the title refer merely to some techniques for dealing with rather difficult systems.

What is Complexity? - The philosophy of complexity per se with application to some examples in evolution - 14 JUN 95
[Next] [Previous] [Top] [Contents]

Generated with CERN WebMaker