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.”

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The concluding chapter of PE beginning at 235 is perhaps the most significant, as it deals with applying the earlier chapters to capitalism. The way out of it “is not to hypothesize an outside ideal or truth…but rather to engage with the wealth of possibilities….for a novel economy to arise” (238).  He starts by describing capitalism as a restricted economy with ideological components that excludes poverty and the poor for it to be coherent. If one is poor it’s their own fault and not that of the system because it is based on a utilitarian (egoic) rationality that gives precedence to the individual. This utilitarianism applies the excess in its system to individual consumption instead of communal festivals and carnivals as in previous economic systems (241-2). This “led to a desacralization of life” that no longer recognized the qualitative nature of relationships but rather just the quantitative, hence the world became “flat” and narcissistic (243-4).

This in turn led to a supply side economics that has to create excessive individual consumption, which leads to enormous system waste instead of socially applying its excess (246). Remember, if they’re poor it’s their own damned fault. And if they’re rich it’s because they deserve it and therefore can waste enormous sums on unnecessary expenses to satisfy their egos while others starve. (No food stamps for you!) Not surprisingly from this worldview capitalism “believes itself to be at the pinnacle of human development” (247). It is a homogenous mode of thought that excludes the heterogenous epitomized by Fukuyama’s The End of History (248). (Sound familiar to you integral capitalists and your brand of Enlightenment?) 

Consequently, holding to such an ideology causes one to avoid any empirical evidence to the contrary, because the idea is what is important, not the empirical material on the ground, so to speak. “The actual and the ideal…is seen as a strict dialectic without excess.” Hence “We cannot simply separate or oppose actuality from ideality because we inhabit the world and our engagement with the world is structured by previous engagements. We cannot easily stand outside the current world and propose an ideology free from an actuality which exists” (250-4). (Again, sound familiar?) 

A general economy though does not oppose the ideal with the actual, and consequently impose the former on the latter. This opens the system to possibilities never considered in the restricted version due to contingent forces on the ground. And this “will demand a different type of reasoning” itself open to self-analysis and reflection. It also moves from a transcendent One to a plural many. “This does not imply a relativism but rather simply that our statements…need to be provisional.” (255-6). 

And the critique of Badiou echoes some of my own criticisms of the MHC, since Badiou sees “either/or relationship…as in mathematics where there are different sets which are neatly discrete from one another.” But complex entities “are never this neat” and “cannot be reduced to such neatness,” since local contingencies are not considered. One such contingency being local actors (actants) that “maintain an agency” that is not subsumed in the set. (257-8). 

And like this article, restricted economies like capitalism are present-centered. The future can only be based on possibilities inherent to what is present, not some novel challenge. It’s a “feedback trap” that only narcissistically reinforces itself instead of responding to a changing environment. Interestingly, this is tied to “awakening” to truth, “a different consciousness” where time stops in an eternal present (259-61). Which all of course feeds back into a timeless Causal or Ideal bivalently juxtaposed with the actual or material. 

Human instead posits that while we need teleos it is non-teleological. I.e., we can use planning as a short-term goal but must constantly be aware of changing circumstances so as to adjust our plans accordingly and on the fly. Such holding to an inherent ideal plan is part and parcel of the restricted economy which ignores such changes that don’t fit the Plan. Hence overcoming capitalism can’t be laid out “in seven easy steps.” But as we’ve seen, a general economy nonetheless has some general and guiding principles, but they too must be tested by the circumstances on the ground and adjusted accordingly. It is, in fact, those actual experimental conditions that led to the formulation of such principles in the first place (261-9).

On the point about changing conditions on the ground, recall this post using the Spiral Dynamics FAQ from the prior post. A relevant excerpt:

"A couple of other things are also of importance in the above SD FAQ. One is how life conditions are paired with the neurobiology of brain-consciousness structures. This seems similar to transitional and basic structures respectively, with the life conditions or context perhaps the societal worldviews that emerged with the concurrent brain-consciousness levels? .... The view changes while the basic structures are included."

Quoting the relevant part of the FAQ:

"Two interacting forces in a field
The systems covered in SPIRAL DYNAMICS® Levels 1 & 2 training are shown to arise from the interaction of two element

  • The life conditions the person or group encounters
  • The brain/mind capacities available to cope with such conditions

For his terminology, Dr. Graves used alphabet letters beginning with A to represent the life conditions that embody a certain kind of existential problems and a view of what the ‘real’ world is like. He used letters beginning with N to represent mind/brain capacities—the neurobiological equipment and mindsets required to recognize and deal with such a reality. Together, the life conditions + mind capacities produce a level of psychological existence in Gravesian terminology, a vMEME in the language of the spiral.

The idea of two interacting forces is central to Dr. Grave’s theory and forms the foundation of SPIRAL DYNAMICS training. That is to say that both genetic predisposition and neuronal systems as well as the experiences accrued in being alive and conscious help shape who we are. The use of letter pairs (rather than colors or numbers) serves to emphasize this double-helix notion and sets this model apart from many others that rely only on typologies and traits, or which do not recognize the interplay of environmentosocial challenges with neurological systems.

A person isn’t generally locked at a single level. The letter pairs can shift with respect to each other and, to some extent, be shifted by conditions. For example, it’s possible for someone to live in an E-level world but only have access to Q means of dealing with life; or to have F thinking while being caught up with overwhelming P. Whether at work or in school, we are over-stretched and stressed or under-employed and bored because of these misalignments."

Wilber agrees with the above in that per this post according to Appendix II of IS a kosmic address includes the altitude and perspective (aka quadrant or quadrivium) of both the subject and the object. In a sense the 'object' can be seen as the life conditions per SD above. And in both models the object or life conditions also have altitude and perspective. But it is at this point where both differ from the more dynamical system kind of complexity because it seems the former are projecting human epistemic levels with how other objects see levels. I'll grant that there are mereological levels to objects but I'm doubting that they translate or correspond so nicely like that. It might even be the difference between developmental and ecological holarchies per Edwards?

Also of note is my comment about life conditions being transitional structures while cognitive stages are basic structures. The former transcend and replace while the latter transcend and include. If this is accurate it reinforces my argument that the trajectory of basic structure is being projected onto that of the transitional structure, which might also be correlated with the difference between developmental and ecological holarchy as defined by Edwards.

The SD FAQ also makes clear that a person or society aren't at a single level. There are all sorts of mix and matches depending on a lot of things. Using the notion of lines also adds another dimension. But even with a line a suobject can be at different altitudes depending on context. I still though agree with the concept of a general center of gravity, like a dynamic virtual attractor, that indeed can and does shift both up and down, again depending on a host of other factors. Hence the socio-economic system of capitalism is shifting ever so slowly toward the next wave.

For example, see Edwards' ILR article at this link on the types of holarchies. A relevant excerpt:

"In the developmental holarchy earlier stages of development are not simply transcended and replaced by later stages, but they also integrate and embrace those earlier aspects of development. Consequently, developmental needs and capacities continue to provide information, knowledge and developmental input throughout the lifespan of the individual or group. In the ecological holarchy smaller ecological networks are not simply overtaken and controlled by larger networks. The functioning of local communities also continues to play a crucial role in the functioning of the larger ecological web and the bigger ecological systems ignore more local information at their peril…. Similarly in governance holarchies, we find this process of non-equivalent multi-directionality between levels. Good use of power and good governance is best regarded as multidirectional in that information and influence flows smoothly within and between all levels of the holarchy."

I also intimated that different holarchies can be contained in any given holonic individual, using Bryant's differences between the parts of a human being, being an ecological holarchy, and the elements might be more akin to a transcend and include developmental holarchy. I haven't thought this through quite yet but working on it (like this post.)

Recall earlier in the OOO thread (this post, and before and after) where I was wondering about thoughts as autonomous substances that do not belong to any one individual but were more how larger cultural assemblages transmit and propogate themselves, like memes. I was reminded of this by Montuori's paper on Morin and complex thought. For example:

"While we normally assume that we have ideas, it became clear to Morin that ideas can also have us—literally possess us. Human beings can literally be possessed by ideologies and belief systems, whether on the Left or the Right, whether in science or religion. Henceforth, Morin’s effort would be to develop a form of thinking—and of being in the world—that is always self-reflective and self-critical, always open and creative, always eager to challenge the fundamental assumptions underlying a system of thought, and always alert for the ways in which, covertly or overtly, we create inviolate centers that cannot be questioned or challenged. Knowledge always requires the knowledge of knowledge, the ongoing investigation and interrogation of how we construct knowledge" (4).

The discussion on pp. 8-9 reminded me of how I view this forum and my blog. Morin's writings attempted to include his personal experiences, his personality, and express the process of its being and becoming. This is contra to the general academic process, where oneself is to be eliminated as much as possible, where 'objectivity' is paramount. Like this forum he tried to display the "actual process of inquiry itself, to the ups and downs of the research, the blind alleys, the mistakes, the insights, dialogues, and the creative process."

Oh, this is nice: "And this is in many ways Morin’s central contribution—to point out that there are problems, such as the human/nature or two culture split, that must be approached with a radically different way of thinking, a way of thinking that, as Morin states, is not disjunctive (either/or), but connects, without the Hegelian assumption that the dialectic will always lead to a new synthesis" (10-11).

More from Montuori:

“Morin refers to mathematical approaches to complexity that still draw on a classical epistemology as 'restricted complexity.' This is contrasted with 'general complexity,' which requires a fundamental rethinking of what we consider knowledge and of how we think. We should therefore not think of this as an attempt to use 'complexity theory,' as it is known in the United States, to address issues in the sciences or philosophy, even if we can find some conceptual parallels” (12).

“Of particular interest for integral theorists, I believe, is the way Morin helps to think through the relationships and interactions between the four quadrants, for instance between brain and mind, individual and culture, and so on.” (14).

“For Morin the issue is addressing the problems of thinking, and this is where his work begins to show considerable parallels with efforts to articulate post-formal ways of thinking, offering a bridge to integral theorists. Herbert Koplowitz (1984) argues strongly for the relationship between general system theory and post-formal thought: 'Formal operational thought is dualistic. It draws sharp distinctions between the knower and the known, between one object (or variable) and another, and between pairs of opposites (e.g., good and bad).' Elsewhere Koplowitz states, 'In post-formal operational thought, the knower is seen as unified with the known, various objects (and variables) are seen as part of a continuum, and opposites are seen as poles of one concept' (as cited in Kegan, 1982, p. 32). In Method we see Morin articulating at considerable length some of Koplowitz’s key principles, also applying them to systems theory and cybernetics” (15).

“Morin articulates the importance of the notion of open system. He spends several hundred pages outlining the quite dramatic implications of a concept that is all-too often taken as a foundation of systems thinking, but largely undertheorized. Morin critiques systems theory approaches extensively, and points to the problematic nature of discussing open and closed systems as opposites when in fact every open system is also, to some extent closed. The complexity of open systems leads him to questions such as how an open system is also closed, the crucial nature of a system’s relationship with the environment, the nature of autonomy, the opposition between reductionism and holism, the possibility of emergence, and self-organization, or as Morin revisions it, self-eco-organization” (16).

The first point in the last post is what I explored in depth in the real/false reason thread, showing the metaphysical basis of the MHC as it still adheres to "a classical epistemology." It's a point they refuse to acknowledge, given their religious belief in a purely objective and Platonic mathematical basis free from all subjective worldview.

Thanks for the link and discussion about Human's dissertation. I've looked at the beginning and end, and find it quite fascinating and it resonates with my understandings.

I like that he brings Fukuyama's The End of History into the discussion. I'm reminded of Montouri's piece on "Planetary Culture and the Crisis of Civilization" that I also recently read (highly recommended).

I especially like this quote from Human (which you also alluded to) on page 259:

"A positive feedback trap is narcissistic; it rewards
behaviours as measured by the system itself rather than by the effects these changes have
on the system’s relationship with its environment. In fact it only allows the system to
flourish as it currently is. A positive feedback trap then does not allow a system to react to a
changing environment. This is what makes it possible to make such complexity uninformed
statements such as ‘we have reached the end of history’ as these statements take into
consideration only those possibilities which currently exist. As such, the economy only
rewards those behaviours which further propagate the current system without concern for
its survival or its environmental sustainability. In this regard, even though the intentions of
those operating within this system may be good (e.g. the desire to produce more
environmentally‐friendly cars to help the planet), to do something, may result in
unsustainable practices in the larger sphere. The internal environment of the system, being
narcissistic, argues that one should buy more environmentally‐friendly products rather than
arguing for the unsustainability of the consumer system."

theurj said:

The concluding chapter of PE beginning at 235 is perhaps the most significant, as it deals with applying the earlier chapters to capitalism. The way out of it “is not to hypothesize an outside ideal or truth…but rather to engage with the wealth of possibilities….for a novel economy to arise” (238)...


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