South African Journal of Philosophy 29 (3):233-252 (2010)

Reflecting on ‘human development’ theorists face conceptual confusion, borne out experientially by contemporary ecological, social, and economic crises. Since concepts create realities (i.e. justify and motivate practices), and philosophers create concepts, it is important to consider how philosophers might respond to conceptual difficulties caused by the modern era’s still influential ‘binary’ paradigm, exemplified by the law of the excluded middle, which entails a discursive split between modernism’s ultimately predictable cosmos and postmodernism’s insistence on fundamental chaos. Supposedly obliged to choose between opposites, theorists are caught between the necessity and iniquity of both. This impasse sets up conditions for what Lyotard calls ‘differends,’ and constrains our power to create responsible concepts. To show that Morin’s ‘generalised complexity’ takes us beyond the modernist/postmodernist impasse, I take up his injunction to promote ‘an epistemological reversal,’ starting from the notion of ‘open system’ and moving through ‘emergence’ and ‘organization’ to ‘logical complexity.’ Our epistemological task accordingly is to establish strategies for interpreting multiple dimensions of phenomenal reality, given the irreducibly complex relation of co-implication between mutually negating opposites. I agree with Cilliers that deconstruction is exemplary in this respect, but aim to broaden the adventure by suggesting ideas for a ‘pragmatics of complexity’ involving vocabulary, concepts, strategies, metaphors, and heuristics derived also from other philosophers and psychoanalytic theorists. The difficulty of complex thought is that it must face messes ... interconnectedness among phenomena, fogginess, uncertainty, contradiction. However, we can elaborate some conceptual tools, some principles for this adventure, and we can begin to perceive the face of the new paradigm of complexity that should emerge. (Edgar Morin, On Complexity, 2008: 6)
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DOI 10.4314/sajpem.v29i3.59144
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