Publication date (electronic): 31 March 2006
Complexity theory and continental philosophy - part 2:
A hermeneutical theory of complexity
In this paper I introduce features of the context of argument related to the status of complexity theory and then move towards a description of Ricoeur’s theorizations on metaphor. I extend the discussion of Ricoeur’s hermeneutic by comparison with the ideas of Lakoff and Johnson on metaphor (influenced by cognitive science as well as Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology) and show correlations which link diverse theorization on the significance of metaphoric theorization. I further extend the description of correlations between Ricoeur’s ideas on symbolism and complexity theory exemplars centered on the conception of ‘emergence’. These perspectives are contextualized relative to the debate concerning whether complexity ought to be conceived as a series of ‘local’ instances or cases, or a ‘universalized’ theory. I extend the view that the mobility of complexity metaphor has created an expansive epistemology within the social sciences and that the resistance to ‘transcendent’ truth—especially felt within attitudes towards ontology within poststructuralist influences on complexity theorization—render problematic the expansion of complexity as a coherent body of theory within the social sciences. It is suggested that a view of phenomenology which acknowledges the role of metaphor and does not have the same problem with ‘transcendent’ truth—setting the arche firmly within the epistemic realm (i.e., Ricoeur’s hermeneutic of metaphor, and related theorization)—might resolve this problem, and also make positive reading of the role of metaphor in complexity studies.
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