Complexity and the non-positive

Gough, Tim (2003) Complexity and the non-positive. In: Complexity, ethics and creativity conference; 17 - 18 Sep 2003, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Theories of complexity have developed from various strands of twentieth century scientific endeavour, including general systems theory, chaos theory, ecology, quantum mechanics, and economics. These disciplines, and their maturity into a set of theories around complexity, undoubtedly constitute one of the more fertile rhizomes of positive science. Parallel to the sciences of the twentieth century, one fertile rhizome of non-positive thought has been that represented by continental philosophy, more or less indebted to Husserl�s phenomenology and the opening of fundamental ontological questioning by Heidegger. This tradition of thought regards the sciences as regional, in the sense that they are characterised as dealing with a limited field of calculable positive knowledge, this being precisely their strength - and also their danger. This paper will argue that because of the potential and actual interrelations between these two rhizomes, theories of complex social systems are perhaps uniquely placed within the social sciences to take on board the critique of the positive intrinsic to the tradition of continental philosophy. The argument will be made that this is necessary if key questions which these theories face are to be given the required depth of complexity - such questions as how organisations can be effective and give space for essential human creativity; how to characterise the interrelations between the micro and macro levels of organisations, in particular recognising a to-and-fro movement which goes beyond cause-and-effect; and the possibility of justice within organisational and social systems.

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