[OPE-L] [Jurriaan] Derrida's ghosts

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Nov 06 2005 - 09:50:46 EST

---------------------------- Original Message ------------------------
Subject: Derrida's ghosts
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date:    Sun, November 6, 2005 7:01 am

For what it's worth, I took an interest in complexity theory twenty years
ago, when I studied Ernest Mandel's interpretation of Marx's economics
(see Ernest Mandel, 'Partially independent variables and internal logic
in classical Marxist economic analysis', in Social Science Information
vol. 24 no. 3 (1985), pp. 487-88 reprinted in Ulf Himmelstrand, Interfaces
in Economic & Social Analysis, London 1992).

But a lot of talk about complexity theory, especially in social science,
is I think really based on:

-a confusion about the purpose of theory
-a confusion about the method of obtaining knowledge.

Theory properly understood is generalisations about experiences which are,
however, not reducible to those experiences (as in naive empiricism of
the "covering law" type). A generalisation is a simplification of sorts.
The point of theory is not to "theorise complexity", but to identify
those salient aspects of a complex reality that can explain it or make it
comprehensible; the best scientific theory is the simplest theory with
the greatest explanatory power.

Of course, obscurantists start talking "complexity" when they haven't
studied the facts, and cannot explain them; that is a sort of speculative
philosophy, propagated by people who think themselves very

I think also that really the best way to learn to understand so-called
"complexity" is just to live your own life, and reflect on your own
experience of it. For the rest, I'm happy to leave the summarising of
complexity theories about complexity to my doppelganger Joshua Goldstein,
who sells a lot of books that way :-).


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