, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 687-705
Date: 23 Oct 2012

Complexity, Networks, and Non-Uniqueness

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The aim of the paper is to introduce some of the history and key concepts of network science to a philosophical audience, and to highlight a crucial—and often problematic—presumption that underlies the network approach to complex systems. Network scientists often talk of “the structure” of a given complex system or phenomenon, which encourages the view that there is a unique and privileged structure inherent to the system, and that the aim of a network model is to delineate this structure. I argue that this sort of naïve realism about structure is not a coherent or plausible position, especially given the multiplicity of types of entities and relations that can feature as nodes and links in complex networks.