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Distributed for Sussex Academic Press

The Challenge of Complexity

Essays by Edgar Morin

Thirty-two essays by Edgar Morin, illuminating the influential philosopher’s contributions to addressing the interconnected uncertainties of our world.

This volume collects thirty-two essays by Edgar Morin, an esteemed French philosopher, sociologist, and public intellectual. The essays span six decades of his career, addressing topics such as complexity, sociology, ecology, education, film, biology, and politics. Morin argues for an epistemological revolution and focuses on the need to develop complex thought—thought which does not mutilate its subject matter by way of reduction—to address the lived complexity of an interconnected, interdependent, uncertain world. Morin’s contribution to such a wide range of disciplines has been influential because of his ability to bring complex thought to bear on seemingly diverse topics, reflecting on the limitations of how they are approached and articulating a transdisciplinary way forward that avoids sacrificing complexity for an oversimplified clarity. Morin illuminates the complexity and creativity of the world and of our lived experience, inviting us to participate in the creative process that is existence itself. An introduction by Alfonso Montuori offers an overview of Morin’s remarkable work and life, and a substantive letter from Morin completes the volume.

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Table of Contents

Encountering Morin by Alfonso Montuori
Preface by Amy Heath-Carpentier
Annotated Bibliography of Chapters
Note to the Reader by Alfonso Montuori

A Letter from Edgar Morin
The Dissolution of Complexity
Blind Intelligence

Introduction—Edgar Morin, an Intellectual Journey
Edgar Morin at 96: A Brief Overview
Beginning with Transdisciplinarity
Stars, Mass Culture, and the Sociology of the Present
Opening Up: The Journals
Complex Thought

Part I Complexity: Method
A New Way of Thinking
The Three Theories
The Three Principles

The Spirit of the Valley
What Absconded from the Paradigm
The School of Mourning
The Impossible Impossible
The Non-Method
From Vicious Circle to Virtuous Cycle
The En-cyclo-pedia
To Relearn Learning
“Caminante no hay camino”
The Spiral Inspiration
The Spirit of the Valley

Restricted Complexity, General Complexity
1.‘Classical science’ rejected complexity based on three principles.
2.The first breach leading to complexity: irreversibility
3.Interactions: Order/disorder/organization
5.The emergence of complexity
6.Generalized complexity
7.System: “All systems should be viewed as complex”
8. The emergence of emergence
9.The complexity of organization
11.The relationship between local and global
12.Heraclitus: “Life from death, death from life”
13.Non-trivial machines
14.To complexify the notion of chaos
15.The need for contextualization
16.The hologrammatic and dialogical principles
17.Some consequences for the sciences
18. Two scientific revolutions introduced complexity
19.The introduction of science into history
20.The link between science and philosophy
21.Second epistemological rupture with restricted complexity
22.The principle of ecology of action
23.Creating “Institutes of fundamental culture”
24.I conclude: Generalized complexity integrates restricted complexity
25.We should seize the possibilities of metamorphosis

On the Definition of Complexity

From the simple to the complex
What is not simple
Less and less simple
More and more complicated
Biological complexity or self-organization
Complexity and the organization of diversity
The mysterious automated factory
The natural automaton-generativity and disorder
‘Life from death, death from life’
A principle of development
Complexity of complexity
Levels of complexity
The many roads leading to complexity
Unequal complexity within one and the same system
The problem of hypercomplexity
The logic of complexity. Logical complexity
The challenge to knowledge: uncertainty and ambiguity
The logic of living things: a generative logic
Dialectical logic
Generative logic
Arborescent logic. Symphonic logic

Organization and Complexity
Unitas multiplex
The complexity of the notion of organization
Basic complexity

From the Concept of System to the Paradigm of Complexity
Introduction: Mastering the Concept of System
The System Paradigm
A. The Whole is Not a Catch-All
B. The Macro-Concept
C. The Psychophysical Nature of the System Paradigm
D. The Paradigm of Complexity
Systemized Theories

Complex Thinking for a Complex World: About Reductionism,
Disjunction and Systemism

The Concept of System
1.Beyond holism and reductionism: The relational circuit
2.The whole is not all
Scissions in the whole (the Immersed and the Emergent, the Repressed
and the Expressed).
The Insufficient Whole
The Uncertain Whole
3Beyond formalism and realism: From Physis to understanding,
from understanding to Physis; the subject/system and the
The Rootedness in Physis
The System is a Mental Abstraction
Phantom Concept and Pilot Concept
The Subject/Object Transaction
Observing and Observed System

RE: From Prefix to Paradigm
Part I: From the RE of Physics to the RE of Biology
Toward a Radical Conceptualization of RE
The Meaning of RE in Physics
Takes and Gives Life
Part II: From Repetition to Recursion
Part III: Poly-RE
Conclusion: Complex RE

Beyond Determinism: The Dialogue of Order and Disorder
Uncle Thom’s Empty Cabin
From the Simplicity of Determinism to the Complexity of Order
On Disorder
The Metaphysical/ontological Opposition and Methodological
The Dialogue of Order and Disorder
Scienza nuova
A knowledge that should know of its own ignorance

Social Paradigms of Scientific Knowledge
The Sociological Insertion of Describer and Description
Personal Self-scrutiny
From the Analysis of the Analyzer to the Inscription of the Description
The Socio-Cultural Hinterland of Knowledge—From Bacon to Habermas
The Sociology of Truth
The Necessity and Insufficiency of the Sociology of Knowledge
The Paradigmatic Gordian Knot
Translator’s Notes

The Fourth Vision: On the Place of the Observer

Self and Autos
Auto- (Geno-Pheno-) Organization
Communicational-Computational Auto-organization
Being for Self and Auto-centrism

Can We Conceive of a Science of Autonomy?1 and 2

What Could Be a Mind Able to Conceive a Brain Able to
Produce a Mind?
The Extraordinary Problem
The Great Schism
The New Monism
The Idea of Subject

The Emergence of Thought
The Prehistory of Thought
Language and the Emergence of Thought
The Use of Dual Thought
The Seculariztion and Individualization of Thought
The Modern Adventures of Thought

For a Crisiology
The Anti-or-organizational Principle of Organization
The Problem of Antagonism
The Theoretical Complexity of Crises
The Components of the Concept of Crisis
1) The idea of disruption
2) The increase of disorder and uncertainty
3) Freeze/unfreezing
4) Unfreezing/Refreezing: The Multiplication of Double-Binds
5) The Increase of Research Activities
6) Mythical and Imaginary Solutions
7) The Dialectic of All These Components
Crisis and Transformation
1) Of Action
2) Change: Progression/Regression
3) Crisis Theory and Evolution Theory
Toward a Crisiology?

Commandments of Complexity

Part II Sociology of the Present
Chronicle of a Film
For a New Cinéma-Vérité

The Multidimensional Method
The Means of Investigation
Phenomenographic Observation
The Interview
Groups and Praxis
Subjectivity and Objectivity
The Research Workers
Development of the Inquiry

The Principles of ‘Contemporary Sociology’
The Phenomenon
The Event or Happening
Social Temporality
Clinical Sociology
The ‘Field of the Present’

Part III Social and Political Reflections
Hoping Against Hope
Doubts about Development
A New Approach

Our Common Home
A World in Disarray
Living Together on Earth
Civilizing the Earth
A Multidimensional Way of Thinking

A Shared Crisis

The Anti-Totalitarian Revolution
What is Totalitarianism?
The Breaking of the Vessels
A Change of Direction
The Revolution
The Disintegration of Totalitarianism
The End of the Soviet System

Realism and Utopia
The Unknowable Real
The End of the Future and the Return of Mythified Pasts
Real-politik and ideal-politik
Towards Complexity of Thought
Towards an Anthropolitics

Future Ethics and Politics
Ethics Against Politics
Political Realism
Towards an Ethics of Humankind

The Agents of Double Globalization
Globalization is Note All-embracing
The Insufficiencies of ‘Economism’ for the Economy
To Regulate? To Decelerate?
A New Approach
Prospects and Aims for a Common Home
The Earth in Danger
The Die Has Not Been Cast Yet

European Civilization: Properties and Challenges
From Europa to Europe
The Cultural Whirlwind
Of Humanity Reconciled, and Happiness on Earth
The European Cultural Identity
Europe and Global Challenges
Conclusion: A New Crisis of European Civilization?

The VI International Catalonia Prize
A Warning

Ecology: The Uses of Enchantment

Demythicising and Remythicising the Mediterranean

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