Navigating the Sea of Epistemic Uncertainty in a World of Complexity

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Ton JÖRG, University of Utrecht, Netherlands
Living in the Age of Complexity, most scholars of complexity have no clear understanding of complexity. This state of art is very much part of what Helga Nowotny has called “the embarrassment of complexity” (Nowotny, 2013). This embarrassment “begins when we realize that old structures are no longer adequate and the new ones are not yet in place” (p. 1). She continues: “when it dawns on us that the categories we normally use to neatly separate issues or problems fall far short of corresponding to the real world, with all its non-linear dynamical inter-linkages” (p. 1). Her position seems in agreement with other complexity scholars who have noticed that complexity itself is still very much a contested concept. According to Melanie Mitchell “[M]any think the word complexity is not meaningful” (Mitchell, 2011). She also makes mention of the fact that to most complexity scholars there is not yet a science of complexity (see Mitchell, 2011, p. 299). Neither is a general theory of complexity yet available. So, it may be concluded that understanding complexity is still very much a problem in our 21st century of complexity. This problem may be linked to “a crisis of knowledge” (Cilliers, 1998, p. 121). Time is ripe to recognize this crisis and to deal with this crisis of knowing itself (Jörg, 2014). In my presentation, I will go deeper into the nature of the crisis: how this crisis is linked to how we view the role of complexity in the world. This complexity is still very much a hidden complexity. Complexity can manifest itself as dynamic, self-generating, self-sustaining, self-maintaining, and self-potentiating (Rescher, 1998). This the very complexity we cannot see, but which is part of the real world. Time is ripe to reframe complexity for the sake of dealing with this still hidden complexity.