Determinism and Unpredictability in Social Systems: Can Law Engender Development?

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 15 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Andre FOLLONI, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, Brazil
Most of the complex systems studied by the hard sciences, such as physical dynamical systems, modify themselves according to determinant rules that can be described in mathematical terms. Those rules are what we call scientific laws. Laws of this kind cannot be violated – you can’t violate the law of gravity. The determinism associated with these rules lead to the thought that scientific method can engender a kind of knowledge that is able to predict how a dynamical complex system will behave in the future: since you know the initial conditions of a system and the rules that govern its evolution, than you will necessarily know how the system will behave and also its final state. Chaos theory had shown how even systems governed by deterministic rules can behave in unpredictably ways, if the system is sensitively dependent on the initial conditions. Chaos theory is then responsible for the separation between determinism and predictability, at least in chaotic complex systems. Hence one of the most important epistemological consequences of chaos theory is to accept that science does not necessarily have to predict to be a real science, and that explain or describe does not necessarily involve the ability of prediction. This situation is even more important in the soft sciences, such as social sciences, since the behavior of the social systems’ agents is governed by rules that can be violated, whether these are economical, ethical, legal or religious rules. So it seems like it is especially difficult to predict human and social behavior in the long term. If this is true, then every attempt to create a law to produce some social consequence is involved with a deep degree of uncertainty, and then complexity science in social sciences is even more complex than in natural sciences.