I came upon this free ebook, Complexity and Postmodernism by Paul Cilliers (Routledge 1998). From the introduction:

“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 inherent 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.”

Views: 2467

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

And here's an article co-authored by Cilliars, whose book kicked off this thread: "Towards an economy of complexity: Derrida, Morin and Bataille." The abstract:

"In this article we explore the possibility of viewing complex systems, as well as the models we create of such systems, as operating within a particular type of economy. The type of economy we aim to establish here is inspired by Jacques Derrida’s reading of George Bataille’s notion of a general economy. We restrict our discussion to the philosophical use of the word ‘economy’. This reading tries to overcome the idea of an economy as restricted to a single logos or master narrative. At the same time, however, Derrida illustrates that we always operate from a restricted framework and as such something will always escape and interrupt our understanding of the world. In this paper we will propose that one could use Derrida’s reading of Bataille, along with notions such as différance, in order to move towards an understanding of complex systems as existing within certain sets of possibilities and constraints. We argue that this view of an economy agrees with the work of Edgar Morin on complexity and his conceptualization of general complexity."

In Cilliars bio at the end it notes this:

"Sadly, shortly after submitting this paper for review, he passed away. His inspiration, humour and thoughts are sorely missed by all those who knew him."

Adieu mon amie!

It seems the above article, which was apparently open access when I posted it, is not for fee only. I did however search for his co-author, Oliver Human, and found his Ph.D. dissertation, "Potential economies: complexity, novelty and the event." Therein Cilliars was the chair of his committee. In the acknowledgments Human noted Cilliers died 3 days after submission, so I'm guessing this dissertation is the basis for the submitted article as well, the latter a much shortened version.

I like this from p. 11: "As the object of this analysis is the development of a new political, economic and social order..." Ye haw!

From the conclusion of chapter 1, resonant of many themes, threads and posts in the forum:

"In this chapter I have argued that the notion of an ‘economy’ is useful for our understanding of complex systems. I have argued that complex systems, and the models we make of them, operate under a particular economy. I did this by illustrating that classical science operates under a restricted economy of analysis which does not acknowledge a model’s relationship to that which it needs to exclude in order to function. In contrast, I have argued for the notion of a general economy in which this excess is acknowledged. However this does not imply that one can operate from a general economy. As Derrida illustrated of Bataille, we can only operate from a restricted economy. This does not mean that I am arguing for a positivistic reduction of a system to some central economy. The fact that we have to reduce does not imply that these reductions are comprehensive. At the same time, I am not arguing for a relativism in which anything can be constituted as the economy of the system. One cannot privilege either form of economy. We are always dealing with economies which are simultaneously restricted and general. We cannot privilege either pole of this dichotomy, nor can we find a compromise. This is not a debilitating position. The robustness of complex systems does cater for the restricted economies upon which models are built. Yet the excess of these models leave novel possibilities open for the future. In complex systems we have to deal with the simultaneously open and closed nature of boundaries."

From the introductory book summary:

"When using the notion of an economy, one must always take the excess of this economy into consideration. This excess always feeds back to disrupt the economy from which it is excluded. Using terms developed in complexity theory, this dissertation illustrates how a system adapts to the environment by using this excess. Due to this there can never be a comprehensively modelled complex system because there are always facets of this system which remain hidden to the observer" (2).

From p. 10:

"The detrimental social and environmental impact of capitalism demands that we begin to develop alternative modes of living in the world."

Indeed. See "progressive economics," "integral global capitalism," "the indigo dollar," "Jeremy Rifkin" and "eco transitions." Eco-transitions is written by Arnsperger, an integrally informed economist whom was posted at kenwilber.com in this essay, "integral economics." Rifkin, while not speaking kennilingus, nonetheless does speak in developmental terms and is on the real forefront of implementing the next socio-economic wave on the planet.

In the Preface he talks about novelty as being an event of irruption. It reminds me a lot of that integral Christian guy who wrote an article about Derrida and Caputo. What was his name again?

Ah, Cameron Freeman. This Integral Options Cafe article refreshed my memory. The essay was "Towards a postmetaphysical theology." However it seems the original article at Metanexus is no longer available. Freeman's website has also disappeared from the web. One can though see a free Google preview of his book here: Postmetaphysics and the Paradoxical Teachings of Jesus.

This appears to be the article (as I recall), though without naming Freeman. An excerpt:

"Derrida begins with the observation that in so far as the entities that constitute our reality have to be set apart before we can even begin to speak about them, nothing actually exists prior to this differentiating process.[2] This differentiation process that precedes and set up the very conditions of language and meaning in the West is what Derrida calls différance, which he characterizes as "the non-full, non-simple, structured and differentiating origin of differences."[3] As the dynamic structuring principle of language and communication, différance can also be described as the never constituted enabling condition of Western metaphysics[4], and as such it describes the very ‘conditions of possibility' for distinguishing between metaphysical oppositions such as ‘sensible/intelligible', ‘nature/culture', ‘inside/outside', etc."

"And so, by showing how the parables of Jesus disrupt and confound the pre-given horizons of intelligibility that establish the metaphysics of Being in the West with a direct pointing to his own realization of the Kingdom of God, it will here be argued that Jesus' radical teachings are so explosive precisely because they are not grounded upon the onto-theological foundations of the Western metaphysics of presence."

Except of the summary of chapter 2 of PE (linked above), reminiscent of Bryant and his use of both Derrida and DeLanda:

"In this chapter I tried to illustrate how a complex system produces an excess which opens up possibilities for transgression. The notion of a structural attractor gives us an ontological description of how the excess in a complex system produces change in the system. The possibilities or potentialities for change are then indicated by the growth of structural attractors in directions which are supported by the system and its environment. Whether it is positive or negative feedback, the relationship between excess and the system is determined by both the environment ‘inside’ the system and the environment in which the system is operating. It is therefore that the production of novelty is as much constrained by the system as it is by the environment within which the system operates. The excess of the system will then propose transgressions but whether these transgressions are able to have an effect is determined by the nature of that movement in relation to a set of dynamics both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the system.... This excess is not some mystical force or vital spirit. It is, rather, a result of the wealth of local interactions within a complex system acting within a field of play which allows the system to adequately respond to the current conditions" (104-05).

The summary conclusion of chapter 4 has this excerpt of interest, since it reminds me of kennilingus narcissistic revelations of truth validation within its direct and present experience of the transcendent Causal*:

"The truth, which is revealed by the event, therefore results in an exclusionary mechanism whereby those enlightened by the truth stand opposite those who are still bound to the knowledge of the State ....one gets the impression that, despite the constant reminder that the event is open to all, those who partook in an event and maintain fidelity to an event, form a sacred club elevated above those who have not experienced this aleatory phenomenon. This reliance on the event produces a conservatism whereby all actions and visions of the future must ascribe to the truth revealed by the event" (194).

* Note how it differs from several sources, including this one, that the ontic virtual is  withdrawn, in excess of and inaccessible in totality from present awareness of any kind, nirvana included. And completely immanent.

The following is from the summary conclusion to chapter 5. Therein experimentation with “resources at hand” is what leads to the excess expressing as novelty, not some transcendent patterns or forms waiting to be uncovered. This goes as well for immanent categories or patterns we create, for they too cannot conceive of what is in excess of them; conditions on the ground often exceed their definitions or boundaries. And yet if we allow for this excess we don’t get as committed to our restricted economies of the moment, open to new possibilities just around the bend. I’m yet again reminded of Bryant’s latent capacities within a machine’s substance that are actualized depending on changing and contingent exo-relational circumstances. 

“The aim of a philosophy of experimentation was therefore to empower thought to bring about novel ways of seeing the world, rather than waiting for an event to reveal to us which possibilities should be pursued. I argued that the process of experimentation brings forth new potentialities which remain latent within a complex system. This is done by the actions of individuals experimenting with the resources they have at hand in contrast to grand scale schemes to overthrow the current system. The realization of these latencies leads to a definition of novelty as that which disrupts our economies of thought and forces us to reread the history of the complex system we were facing” (234).

Interesting quotes, consonant with Deleuze's experimental notion of philosophy.  I'll discuss this on the Ramey thread when I get a chance.

I ordered Morin's Homeland Earth this past weekend (thinking it might be a useful supplement for one of my classes).  I recall that Wilber dismisses it as an Orange / modernist text, but I'm interested to view it in light of some of our discussions here...

Reply to Discussion


What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2019   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service