Understanding Complex Systems [chapter]

Paul Cilliers
2012 Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health  
Complexity and Postmodernism explores the notion of complexity in the light of contemporary perspectives from philosophy and science. Paul Cilliers contributes to our general understanding of complex systems, and explores the implications of complexity theory for our understanding of biological and social systems. Postmodern theory is reinterpreted in order to argue that a postmodern perspective does not necessarily imply relativism, but that it could also be viewed as a manifestation of an
more » ... rent sensitivity to complexity. As Cilliers explains, the characterisation of complexity revolves around analyses of the process of self-organisation and a rejection of traditional notions of representation. The model of language developed by Saussure-and expanded by Derrida-is used to develop the notion of distributed representation, which in turn is linked with distributed modelling techniques. Connectionism (implemented in neural networks) serves as an example of these techniques. Cilliers points out that this approach to complexity leads to models of complex systems that avoid the oversimplification that results from rulebased models. Complexity and Postmodernism integrates insights from complexity and computational theory with the philosophical position of thinkers like Derrida and Lyotard. 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. 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. Paul Cilliers lectures in philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. He worked as a research engineer for over a decade, specialising in computer modelling. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-203-01225-9 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-203-17457-7 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-15286-0 (hbk) ISBN 0-415-15287-9 (pbk) For Ilana and Cornel
doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-4998-0_3 fatcat:wacvsurq3bgxrj7xcttrian3be