Complexity: A Philosophical Overview

Framsida
Transaction Publishers, 1998 - 219 sidor
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Our world is enormously sophisticated and nature's complexity is literally inexhaustible. As a result, projects to describe and explain natural science can never be completed. This volume explores the nature of complexity and considers its bearing on our world and how we manage our affairs within it.

Rescher's overall lesson is that the management of our affairs within a socially, technologically, and cognitively complex environment is plagued with vast management problems and risks of mishap. In primitive societies, failure to understand how things work can endanger a family or, at worst, a clan or tribe. In the modern world, man-made catastrophes on the model of Chernobyl can endanger millions, possibly even risking the totality of human life on our planet. Rescher explains "technological escalation" as a sort of arms race against nature in which scientific progress requires more powerful technology for observation and experimentation, and, conversely, scientific progress requires the continual enhancement of technology. The increasing complexity of science and technology (and, in consequence, of social systems) along with problems growing faster than solutions confront us with major management and decision problems.

This study is the first of its kind. There have been many specialized studies of complexity in physics and computation theory, but no overall analysis of the phenomenon. Although Rescher offers a sobering outlook, he also believes that complexity entails mixed blessings: our imperfect knowledge provides a rationale for putting forth our best efforts. Rescher urges us to gear the conduct of life's practical affairs to the demands of a complex world. This highly readable and accessible volume will be of interest to those interested in philosophy, the philosophy of science, science policy studies, and future studies.

 

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The Ways of Complexity
1
2 Modes of Complexity
8
3 The Cognitive Aspect
16
The Complexity of the Real
25
The Law of Natural Complexity
26
2 Descriptive Incompleteness
31
The Instability of Knowledge
33
4 The Cognitive Opacity of the Real
36
8 Science and Reality
121
Extraterrestrial Science
129
2 The One World One Science Argument
135
3 First Principles
140
4 Potential Plurality of Science
146
Are There Any Limits to the ProblemSolving Capacity of Computers?
151
2 Problem Solving by Computers
152
3 Theoretical Limits are not Meaningful Limitations
154

5 Nomic or Operational Complexity
41
6 The Imperfectibility of Knowledge in a Complex World
45
Cognitive Progress in a Complex World Destabilization and Complexification
55
2 The Principle of Least Effort and the Methodological Status of SimplicityPreference in Science
58
3 Complexification and the Disintegration of Science
64
4 Complexity and the Human Sciences
71
Complex Knowledge The Growth of Science and the Law of Logarithmic Returns
75
2 The Law of Logarithmic Returns
77
3 The Rationale and Implication of the Law
82
4 The Growth of Knowledge
84
5 The Centrality of Quality and Its Implications
86
Technological Escalation and the Exploration Model of Natural Science
91
2 The Exploration Model of Scientific Inquiry
96
An Arms Race Against Nature
98
The Theoretical Unrealizability of Perfected Science
105
Issues of Erotetic Completeness
107
3 Pragmatic Completeness
110
4 Predictive Completeness
113
5 Temporal Finality
115
6 The Dispensability of Perfection
117
7 Perfected Science as an Idealization that Affords a Useful Contrast Conception
119
Inadequate Information
155
Limits of PredictionRealTime Processing Problems
157
7 Inherent Limits of PredictionSelfInsight Problems
159
Limits of ModelingCognitive Thermodynamics
161
9 The Human Element
162
Coping with Cognitive Limitations Problems of Rationality in a Complex World
165
The Predicament of Reason
169
Technology Complexity and Social Decision
173
2 Problem Complexity Outpaces Solution Complexity
177
Risk and Destabilization
181
4 Concretization Quandaries and Decision Gridlock
184
5 A Retrospective Reflection
188
Complexitys Bearing on Philosophical Anthropology
191
The Paradox of Finitude
193
3 Principles of Complexity
199
4 Philosophizing in a Complex World
202
5 After Postmodernism
205
Bibliography
211
Index of Names
217
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