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

Balder posted a FB IPS thread on an introductory talk by Ken Wilber on "Awakening Christ Consciousness." For those of you who choose to forego that medium I copy Cameron Freeman's response below:

"Firstly, I’m very excited to see this event happening and share a genuine passion for this important inquiry into what Integral Christianity looks like and what it means to follow Jesus’ path of radical self-giving love in the light of contemporary experience.

But the introductory talks and previews have brought to mind a concern that I’ve always had about this fledgling, still embryonic Integral Christian movement: we simply cannot return to the heart of Christ consciousness without directly confronting the central trauma/scandal of the Crucifixion. For Christian faith is born right here, in powerlessness and the night of truth, in the midst of dark ambiguity and painful contradiction, through an encounter with God in the crucified Christ. That is, Christianity constitutes a revolution in our understanding of God, precisely because at the pulsating heart of all reality is the paradoxical madness of the Cross – the agonistic tension of God “not at one” with God’s self.

And so the question I have is this: does Integral Christianity seek to confront this shocking revelation that “God is not at one with God” and embracing the dark paradoxes of Christianity (in both Jesus of Nazareth and St. Paul), where paradox means not “reconciliation” but a “rupture” or ontological incompleteness (Zizek)? Or is this Integral approach to Christianity destined to repeat the same basic problem with almost all previous forms of Christian theology by pasting over the cracks of this traumatic encounter with a vulnerable, suffering God with a fantasy of primordial peace or global harmony?

Instead, a genuinely honest and more credible approach to Integral Christianity would expose us to the radical core of Christianity, this “non-coincidence of God with God” and the antagonistic tension within the very heart of Christ crucified, where God’s own self is exposed to the possibility of irreversible extinction – and like any decent lover: without rushing straight to the happy ending! And this means undergoing the central Christian experience of the “death of God”, or the realization that there is no Big Other (Lacan/Zizek), i.e. there is no overarching Kosmic support system that can guarantee the meaning of our actions or resolve the irreducible ambiguities and contradictions of our finite, temporal embodiment in the only world that matters.

And here we need to go back to the ‘divine madness’ in Schelling’s unfinished “Ages of the World” drafts and tarry with the gaping wound in God’s own heart, as the greatest gift of love that this world has ever encountered. Otherwise we run the risk that Integral Christianity just another attempt to stabilize or cover over this antagonistic gap, to pretend to resolve the paradoxical tension of the Real or to repress this dis-equilibrium or incompleteness that forever trembles in the depth of things?

So my concern here is that there is no space in Integral Christianity for Love, where love involves the risk of exposing our absence/lack and those traumatic gaps in our psyche that resist meaning-making, it means to confess that we are not-whole, that we are not at one with ourselves or the divine, it means to acknowledge that there is only antagonism (this ontological gap, paradoxical tension) in things that goes all the way down, and where an integrally-informed articulation of the irreducible paradoxes that constitute the heart of Christ consciousness means that God is not at one with God’s self… But all the best with the event, it’s regrettable that I won’t be able to be there."

theurj said:

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."

My response:

I see Derrida's influence here too Cameron, by way of Caputo, in his critique of the metaphysics of presence. I find that sort of metaphysics rampant in kennilingus, in that we have direct and privileged access to the absolute via satori experience. Hence there is no ambiguous gap or absence of the kind you mention; it gets lost in the sort of Hegelian reconciliation one finds in that type of dialectics.

And unfortunately within that frame kennilingus, and certain forms of hierarchical complexity, have no other way to interpret what you speak of in terms other than green, often mean, relativism. Whereas other forms of complexity thinking, like Morin and Cilliars, and other forms of Christianity, like Keller and Caputo, can do so. But again at the expense of being reduced by the above limiting frame.

This post, and those following it on that page of a Ning IPS discussion, go into this in detail. As I noted in that discussion, perhaps a better, Caputoish term for this might be hier(an)archical complexity.

Cameron's reply:

"Thanks edwryd, yes you're spot on. its the lack of any primordial grounding, the absence of any stable centre or privileged, conflict free space in the kosmos, and exposure to the incompleteness trembling in the sacred depths of things that makes transformation possible... And its not just derrida and caputo, this is the central move of contemporary continental philosophy in zizek, badiou, malabou, etc... thanks for yr response."

Thanks for sharing Cameron Freeman's comments here. Interesting comments about the "trauma/scandal" of the Crucifixion. Am I correct in interpreting this as a critique about what is appearing to be left out of the Integral Christianity discussion, or is there something specific in Wilber's recording or other presentation that may be in error?

From your response, it points to the beginning part of Wilber's presentation about states without discussion of any kind of "ambiguous gap."

Still, overall I found Wilber's presentation valuable, and I especially appreciated the highlighting of the Christian concept of love, which as we have discussed before on this forum, is often under-emphasized in integral thought. I have noticed also Terry Patten's recent emphasis on the Heart in his teachings.

In regards to some of the themes Freeman and you bring up, I will bring up again the mostly forgotten philosophers of Christian theology, Henry Nelson Wieman, Bernard Meland, and Bernard Loomer, who represented an offshoot of process-relational philosophy, who I think still have a lot to contribute to Christianity in a Complexity and Postmodern framework.

Quotes from From Bernard Meland's "Fallible Forms & Symbols: Discourses of Method in a Theology of Culture" (1976) (chapters 5 and 6):

"Acknowledging, even stressing, the note of dissonance as a qualitative corrective of our rationality achieved through idealization seems to me to offer some leverage for exerting a realistic stance that is not wholly tragic, yet sufficiently sensitive to the tragic sense of life to take account of the surds of insensitivity along with that which is expressive of a good not our own, a good that is beneficent and blessed."

"...the kind of certainty implied in the notion of the Absolute is really more akin to this post-Enlightenment thinking than to periods of Christianity antedating the seventeenth century. It would, in fact, not be amiss to argue that the Absolute was a creation of this modern, liberal period, supplanting the authority of the church and Scriptures. For the Absolute implies a rational certainty established by logical argument out of concern to find points of fixity and ultimate reference in a world of finitude and change."

"Christology...is not God in terms of logical perfection, but God in his concreteness, God reconciling the world unto himself, God taking upon himself the form and burden of actuality....  But Christology envisages also God in the form of one man enduring commonplace bigotry and smugness of people in authority, or of people in common places possessed and dominated by the canons of their own self-righteousness. Thus, Christology envisages deity not in its majesty and power as supreme ruler, but as suffering servant, taking up the cross of humanity that is borne by all who suffer from the insensitivities of creaturely existence, both those of their own making and those of others' with whom their lot is cast."

"Now the impatient resolution of these contraries, either in the direction of proving a final perfection or in the direction of declaring an ultimate despair, short-circuits theological inquiry, enabling it to sublimate the intricacies and inconsistencies of lived experience in the generalized vision of God, or to capitulate too readily to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune on the asssumption that this is the way life is. In the one instance, destiny is too obviously designated and assured; in the other instance, cruel fate displaces all sense of destiny.

If my remarks so far are not too oblique or elusive, one will see that I tend to cast my lot as theologian with interpreters of the Christian faith who see it as a narrow way rather than a broad way of generalized knowledge. I see it as a disclosure accompanied by discernment that issues forth out of the responses we make in seriously confronting the demands and opportunities of each moment of living. And each moment of living is itself an act of living forward."

"The truth of the faith as lived experience is mediated in such critical situations of grief and deprivation through a vivid uprising within immediate relationships of the very community of love and forgiveness that forms the ultimate ground of man's existence. It is here that we learn what we mean to one another in the ultimate aspect of our existence. We are literally the bearers of grace and redemptive love to one another, and there is no concrete nature of God, no new creation except as it is made incarnate in these relationships that hold us in existence. Conversely, we are also the bearers of demonic evil, transmitting to our fellows whatever is expressed through us of the surd of insensitivity that resists and defiles the communal growth of love and forgiveness.

...Because theology deals with issues of such immediate and ultimate import, its problems can never be resolved other than as tentative solutions to a complex of querries whose answers elude any final formulation. But the truth of faith, I repeat, lies not in these formulations, or in any word or symbol as such, but in the realities of grace and judgment of which they speak, realities that sustain, alter, and ultimately redeem our human ways."

Thanks for the Meland quotes. Some of them point to Cameron's points, one being a concrete Christ who suffers the slings and arrows of a "suffering servant taking up the cross of humanity." And I'd agree that the modern period recontextualized the absolute as infallible reason. But the notion of the absolute was just as hardy prior to the Enlightenment, just more anchored in myth. Both are expressions of a certain disembodied, dichotomous metaphysics, the very kind that ends up reconciling everything in a heavenly absolute, in whatever form. In Cameron's postmetaphysical theology there ain't no such God. And thank God for that.

Yes, but I think Meland was arguing that the kind of absolutisms we see now are quite different from the kinds of absolutisms that existed before modernity. It kind of reminds me of Karen Armstrong's argument that fundamentalism is at heart a product of modernity. But your point is valid about "dichotomous metaphysics ...that end up reconciling everything in a heavenly absolute."

Meland would agree that there ain't no such God. He even criticizes the metaphysics of both Wieman (the lure of empirical certainty) and Hartshorne (rational attempts to close the gap between imagery and reality for ontological security). "In either case, the lure of certainty is destined to create false gods."

He continues:

"But my quarrel with such rational or empirical zeal, as it relates to the theological task, goes more deeply than this matter of our present facilities of thought. It touches upoon what is basically involved in the concern to bring to modern man, or to restore to him, the religious option which, presumably, for many reasons, has been lost to modern life. To put it bluntly, it is not simply a matter of putting into the hands of modern men a theological or ontological formula that will speak to their sophisticated minds, and thus enable them to participate, at least at an intellectual level, in the demands of the Christian story. Rather, it is a matter also of challenging this sophistication of modernity, of breaking through this pose of human self-sufficiency and its facade of intellectualism or aestheticism or scientism which has enabled modern man for more than three hundred years to stand off from, or to appear superior to, the elemental stance of man as creature." [emphasis mine]

In the next chapter:

"Furthermore, I have come to see the reality of God as being of a piece with the Creative Passage. For reasons which may become clear, I have recoiled from trying to envisage or to define God in any complete, metaphysical or ontological sense, preferring instead to confine attention to such empirical notions as the creative act of God and the redemptive work of God in history. [emphasis his]  Much of hte meaning we appear to find in life, we bring to it, as Kant observed, through our own forms of sensibility and understanding. But, as James and Bergson were later to remark, countering the stance of Kand and Hume in one basic respect, the nexus of relationships that forms our existence is not projected, it is given. we do not create these relationships; we experience them, being given with existence. And from this matrix come resources of grace that can carry us beyond the meanings of our own making, and alert us to goodness that is not of our own willing or defining. This goodness in existence which we do not create, but which creates and saves us, is the datum to which I mean to attend. It is literally a work of judgment and grace, a primordial and provident goodness, the efficacy of which may be discerned in every event of creativity, sensitivity, and negotiability. Thus I am led empircally to speak of God as the Ultimate Efficacy within relationships."

I'll park this here for now: "The direction of evolution: the rise of cooperative organization." In Biosystems, Volume 123, September 2014, Pages 27–36

An excerpt:

"The hypothesis that seems to have gained most support is that selection tends to drive increasing complexity as evolution proceeds. [...] It is obvious that complexity per se is not favoured by selection. There are numerous possible changes in organisms that would increase complexity but are not advantageous in evolutionary terms. And changes that are less complex are not always inferior.

"Proponents of this claim have been unable to identify how known evolutionary processes would drive the supposed trend towards increasing complexity. This is a serious deficiency that also bedevils other attempts to demonstrate an overall, driven trend in evolution. To demonstrate such a trend, it is not sufficient to identify some supposed large-scale pattern in evolution and to marshal empirical evidence that substantiates the existence of the pattern. The pattern may be an artefact and not driven by selection that directly favours the pattern. It is therefore also necessary to provide the claimed directionality with micro-foundations at the level of natural selection that show how the pattern is driven by selection and related processes.

"This has proven particularly challenging because it is not at all obvious how natural selection could drive a trajectory encompassing all living processes, given that it produces only local adaptation to local circumstances (Gould, 1996 and Maynard Smith, 1988).

"This deficiency obviously cannot be overcome by the postulation of some new general ‘force’, ‘tendency’ or ‘drive’ that is unsupported by appropriate micro-foundations. Nor can it be overcome by teleological explanations that rely on impermissible ‘pulls from the future’."

And from the conclusion:

"Evolution has been heading towards the emergence of a coordinated and integrated global entity."


I also posted the above as a comment to Frank Visser's latest Integral World article. Frank's reply:

"Yes, I know Stewart's ideas very well have posted some of his writing on Integral World, some of which is originally written for this website. He is so much more interesting and knowledgeable than Wilber when it comes to evolution. Especially relevant is his emphasis on individual holons becoming more cooperative during evolution -- across micro and macro levels -- where Wilber gives a more transcendentalist presentation in which individual holons transcend and include previous holons, each with their own social counterparts. Wilber needs a metaphysical drive towards complexity to get this all off the ground, Stewart doesn't. But above all, Stewart engages the relevant literature (Gould, McShea) where Wilber is lost in his sound bytes that are only meant to impress and cater to the ignorance of his audience."

Here's a link to Stewart's IW articles.

Thanks Edwyrd, this looks fascinating and I will be looking at the attachment and links (re: Stewart). It looks like it may support some of the ideas expressed in the ITC paper I'm working on, in regards to a shift from emphasis on competition to increased cooperation in a future with less available energy. 

Have you explored Eisler to support your thesis? As noted in her thread, she see's an alteration between cultural periods of male dominance and partnership societies. The former are an unbalanced regression of dominator hierarchies, whereas the latter are balanced actualization hierarchies. I also made the spiral dynamics connection of alternating individual and social levels. SD however sees both as spiraling upward, whereas I suggested that perhaps the more individually (male) oriented are really much more like Eisler's regressive dominators. Hence not really an ongoing upward evolutionary spiral per SD (and Wilber etc.) but an uneven spiral up and down.

Hence capitalism, with its unbalanced male individualism, is actually a regression rather than a necessary or healthy advance up the spiral. That would also go for the sort of complexity Stewart notes above, what I'd call false reason and a regression rather than an advance. Real reason though is an advance, which is a partnership between body and mind, abstract and concrete, etc. instead of the usual dichotomous metaphysics inherent to dominator cultures.

Yes, I have Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations in my library. Thanks.

Neelesh Marik shared the following on Facebook today, a book applying Morin's complex thought to theology:  Engaging Complexity.  I haven't read it yet, but it looks interesting, possibly touching on some threads covered in my recent ITC paper.

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