Since one of the main foci of complexity science is the emergence of radically novel order, complexity science has had to devise many new tools, methods, and conceptual schemas in order to navigate through this new territory. And, accompanying this invention of new ways of probing complex systems is a requisite re-thinking of basic assumptions about the nature and dynamics of systems which inevitably leads to a re-looking at traditional philosophical issues underlying those assumptions.

In this way, complexity science is following through on two observations about the relation of science to philosophy offered respectively by Schopenhauer and Einstein:

Schopenhauer: the corrected, extended, and more thorough knowledge of nature is the very knowledge that always undermines and finally overthrows the metaphysical assumptions that until then have prevailed.

Einstein: the results of scientific research very often force a change in the philosophical view of problems which extend far beyond the restricted domain of science itself.


An example of a specific content area in philosophy which advances in complexity science are undoubtedly reframing the issue of causality. In this regard the remarks of the philosopher of science R. Schlegel are particularly apt "Causality is not an a priori  principle, or set of principles, but is rather a general characteristic of scientific knowledge. As such, it partly sets the form of science; but also, the history of causality amply demonstrates that the content of science responds back as a determinant of causal principles."

Causality, of course, is just one area on which complexity science is having a huge impact. Others include the role of contexts, the nature of time, the dynamics of evolution, and many more. Below are a few downloadable articles by Jeffrey Goldstein on philosophical issues and complexity plus links to articles and books and webpages where the interface between complexity and philosophy are explored.

Finally, please note that the quarterly journal Emergence: Complexity and Organization not only contains a section in each issue devoted to a paper on complexity and philosophy, it also has another related section which offers a classic paper in the field, many of which either overtly or implicitly address philosophical themes.


Dynamical Systems Model of Paradoxes:

Jeffrey Goldstein, "Mathematics of Philosophy or Philosophy of Mathematics?" Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, July, 2001 Vol 5, No. 3: 197-204. (doc)

Causality and Emergence:

Jeffrey Goldstein, "Causality and Emergence in Chaos and Complexity Theories," In W. Sulis and A. Combs (Eds.), Nonlinear Dynamics in Human Behavior (Studies of Nonlinear Phenomena in Life Sciences   Volume 5), pp. 161 190,  Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 1996