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Complexity and Organization

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PSA 1972

Part of the book series: Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science ((BSPS,volume 20))

Abstract

In his now classic paper, ‘The Architecture of Complexity’, Herbert Simon observed that “... In the face of complexity, an in-principle reductionist may be at the same time a pragmatic holist.” (Simon, 1962, p. 86.) Writers in philosophy and in the sciences then and now could agree on this statement but draw quite different lessons from it. Ten years ago pragmatic difficulties usually were things to be admitted and then shrugged off as inessential distractions from the way to the in principle conclusions. Now, even among those who would have agreed with the in principle conclusions of the last decade’s reductionists, more and more people are beginning to feel that perhaps the ready assumption of ten years ago that the pragmatic issues were not interesting or important must be reinspected. This essay is intended to begin to indicate with respect to the concept of complexity how an in principle reductionist can come to understand his behavior as a pragmatic holist.

Parts of this paper based on my doctoral dissertation (Wimsatt, 1971) and on work done during the tenure of a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh and a post-doctoral fellowship with the Committee on Evolution Biology at the University of Chicago, supported by the Hinds Fund for Studies in Evolution. I gratefully acknowledge their support.

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© 1974 D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland

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Wimsatt, W.C. (1974). Complexity and Organization. In: Schaffner, K.F., Cohen, R.S. (eds) PSA 1972. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol 20. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-2140-1_5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-2140-1_5

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-90-277-0409-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-010-2140-1

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