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EmergenceContemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science$
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Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262026215

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262026215.001.0001

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Alternative Views of Complexity Herbert Simon

Alternative Views of Complexity Herbert Simon

(p.249) 13 Alternative Views of Complexity Herbert Simon

Herbert Simon

The MIT Press

This chapter elaborates on the varying conceptions of complexity and complex systems. Interest in complexity can be divided into three eruptions of interest: first, the eruption after World War I that gave birth to the term “holism”; second, the eruption after World War II that gave birth to terms such as “information,” “feedback,” “cybernetics,” and “ general systems”; the third and current eruption associates complexity with “chaos,” “adaptive systems,” “genetic algorithms,” and “cellular automata.” These three eruptions selected different aspects of complexity on which to focus. The post-WWI interest focused on the claim that the whole transcends the sum of the parts, and was strongly anti-reductionist. The post-WWII eruption remained neutral on the issue of reductionism, focusing on the roles of feedback and homeostasis in maintaining complex systems. The current interest in complexity focuses mainly on mechanisms that create and sustain complexity, and on analytic tools for describing and analyzing it.

Keywords:   complexity, complex systems, holism, general systems, chaos, adaptive systems, reductionism, homeostasis

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