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You are here: Home / Agenda / Seminars / Séminaires 2021 / "Les engagements épistémiques des théories de la complexité »

"Les engagements épistémiques des théories de la complexité »

The conference “Epistemic commitments of complexity theories” aims at gathering practitioners of the field, as well as researchers in philosophy, history, sociology, in order to address the axiological, ideological and political aspects of some of the most important complexity theories: complex systems sciences (Santa Fe Institute style), cybernetics and systemics (autopoiesis, Hayekian neoliberalism, Odum ecology, etc.)…
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When Mar 25, 2021 04:00 to
Mar 29, 2021 01:00
Where ENS de Lyon, Webinar
Contact Name
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To allow for more interesting discussions, you're invited to read the papers presented by the speakers before the conference. They're available just below in the program and after each abstract

Several social and human science works have shown how science and knowledge are not merely a world of ideas. Scientific theories are embedded in different practices, techniques, ontologies, institutions, materiality, norms, and ideologies (Hackett et al., 2008). Scientific narratives, theories, models, and even equations are – despite their often supposed neutrality – carriers of normative and political viewpoints that must be explicated and democratically debated (Granjou & Arpin, 2015; Knorr-Cetina, 1982; Jasanoff, 2015; Vieille-Blanchard, 2007).
Following such an anthropological take on complexity theories, this workshop will address the normative, ideological and political underpinnings of complexity science, including questions such as:
  • What kind of ontology of the social world is implicit in complexity theories?

  • What performative and normative effects do such ontologies have on complexity specialists’ views of politics?

    • What are complexity specialists’ commitments in the academic, social, economic, and political fields?

List of invited speakers
- Jean-Pierre Dupuy (CV)

Videos available on Your tube : Here


- 11 January - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "Introduction to the webinar", Fabrizio Li Vigni (Article Fabrizio Li Vigni : here) & Pablo Jensen; "Introduction to complexity theories, Fabrizio Li Vigni and "Cybernetics and Wicked Problems", Andy Pickering (Article Andrew PICKERING : here)

------> video available : HERE

- 18 January - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "Second cybernetics. the science of saving energy", Thomas Turnbull (Article Thomas Turnbull : here) and "From cybernetics to complexity", Jean-Pierre Dupuy (2 Articles Jean-Pierre Dupuy : here and here)

------> video available : HERE

- 25 January - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "CosmoTech: from complexity research to business", Michel Morvan and "Complex thinking in organization studies: from theory to practice", David Vallat (Article David Vallat : here)

------> video available : HERE

- 1 February - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "Whose complexity? Modelling or governing the environment?", Catharina Landstrom (Article Catharina Landstrom : here) and "Complexity sciences and Hayek's neoliberalism", Fabrizio Li Vigni (Article Fabrizio Li Vigni : here)

------> video available : HERE

- 8 February - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "The Earth system: genealogy of the global environment as a complex system", Sébastien Dutreuil (Article Sébastien Dutreuil : here) and "From Cybersyn to social macroscopes: contributions of complex systems research to a social reflexivity", David Chavalarias (Articles David Chavalarias : here and here)

------> video available : HERE

- 15 February - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : 15 February - from 11 to 12.30 pm : "The (non)neutrality of science and algorithms", Aniello Lampo and "Can gender inequality be created without inter-group discrimination?", Floriana Gargiulo (Article Floriana Gargiulo : here)

------> video available : HERE

- 22 February - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "Les complexités de la physique", JM Lévy-Leblond (Article JM Lévy-Leblond : here) et Marc Barthelemy (Article de Marc Barthelemy : here)

------> video available : HERE

- 1 March - from 11 am to 12.30 pm : "A non-imperialist physics", Quentin Rodriguez (Article Quentin Rodriguez : here) and "Thermodynamics as the science of complexity in Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ Order out of chaos (1979). Is thermodynamics really able to help social sciences?", Emanuel Bertrand (Article Emanuel Bertrand : here)

------> video available : HERE

- 25 March - from 4 pm to 5.30 pm : "The monetization of ecosystemic services", Victor Lefèvre and "Three visions of the futures of forests in a changing climate: the epistemic commitments of forest scientists", Antoine Dolez (Article Antoine Dolez : HERE)

------> video available : HERE

- 29 March - from 11 am to 12:30 pm : « The history of technosciences for governing increasingly complex societies » Dominique Pestre (EHESS) and Matthias Schemmel (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte)

------> video available : HERE



Please register here to participate : here



1) Login to the laboratory's web conferencing portal
2) Enter in the field "Join a meeting" the name of the webconf3 room in which you have been invited by the Organizer and click on the "Join" button.

3) Select, with the down arrow, either the "desktop application" (software client that will need to be installed beforehand) or the "web application" (browser that does not require additional installation) and then click again on the "Join Meeting" button.
4) Click on "Test Speaker and Microphone" to make the settings and then click on the "Start Meeting" button.

5) You enter directly into the meeting room; remember to mute the microphone if it is set by default. You will be able to turn it back on for questions and discussions.
1) Connectez-vous sur le portail de webconférence du laboratoire

2) Saisissez dans le champs "Rejoindre une réunion" le nom de la salle webconf3 dans laquelle vous avez été convié par l'Organisateur et de cliquer une première fois sur le bouton "Rejoindre"

3) Sélectionnez, avec la flèche du bas, soit "l'application de bureau" (client lourd qu'il faudra installer préalablement), soit "l'application Web" (navigateur qui ne nécessite pas d'installation supplémentaire) puis cliquez à nouveau sur le bouton "Rejoindre la réunion"
4) Cliquer sur "Testez le haut-parleur et le micro" pour procéder aux réglages puis cliquez sur le bouton "Démarrer la réunion"

5) Vous entrez directement dans la salle de réunion ; pensez à couper le microphone si il est mis par défaut. Vous pourrez le rétablir pour les questions et discussions.




Introduction to the webinar - PABLO JENSEN, Fabrizio Li Vigni



Introduction to complexity theories - Fabrizio Li Vigni

The historical and sociological literature about the theories of complexity is very thin. Few works propose a taxonomy of some of these theories, but they are carried out by complexity theorists themselves. In general, there are two kinds of positions: either an irenic and simplifying description of the domain, where different groups are recognized but considered as a single family; or a reductionist, if not propagandistic description where a single group or even a single researcher is considered as “the” true representative of complexity theory. In this short and introductory talk I would like to show that the field is very heterogeneous, by presenting seven different groups of complexity theories. A qualitative study based on a series of criteria has been conducted to find and describe such groups. To confirm or correct such a taxonomy, a quantitative study based on the scientometric analysis of such groups is in course thanks to a collaboration with CNRS mathematician Floriana Gargiulo.

Article Fabrizio Li Vigni : here




Systematising Energy Saving at the RAND Corporation in the 1970s - Thomas Turbnull

In revisiting the history of the now common-sense notion of energy saving, this paper will address the relation between modelling the dynamics of energy demand and the messy complexity of energy systems in practice. To do so, we will turn to the nineteen-seventies, when archetypal Cold War think tank the RAND Corporation turned its expertise toward the problem of energy demand. The organisation’s researchers realised that utility-led forecasting contributed to growth in electricity use. By developing an independent forecasting method, they reconceptualised the various components of society’s fuel consumption in general systemic terms. This approach was heavily informed by cybernetics. It was suggested that demand reducing feedback loops could be introduced into the system of energy use, iteratively reducing demand over time and with minimal impact on welfare and economic growth. This work marked a conceptual extension of previous attempts by electrical engineers to use the power grid as means of resource conservation. Whereas power engineers had restricted their claims to grid mechanics, RAND researchers suggested the entire energy system could be reconfigured as a sociotechnical means of conservation. This idea followed in an intellectual tradition which considered the grid as a networked computational system, while also reflecting a later cybernetic preoccupation with the relation between energy and information. Many aspects of RAND’s approach were operationalised in California, and the distinction between energy saving in theory and in practice will provide a point of conclusion.

Thomas Turnbull : here



 Representing or intervening? When less is more in environmental modelling  - Catharina Landström

How much ‘real world’ complexity can you ignore? This is a question that all computer simulation modellers have to address. While computer models make it possible to represent complex systems there are limits to the number of parameters it makes sense to include in a model. Different modelling approaches have different affordances in this regard. The purpose of modelling is also important. Scientific modellers often take pride in the number of elements and relationships that the models they create can represent. However, modelling for environmental management requires a different perspective on complexity and model representation. To build models that provide actionable knowledge for environmental decision makers it is necessary to minimise the number of elements and processes included in the model. Decision makers are not interested in knowing as much as possible about the functioning of a system, they need to know what they can do, to which effects. Models for environmental management must be trustworthy and provide actionable knowledge. But, what is a modeller to do when all the decision makers involved do not operate in the same realities? In this presentation I will consider how the tension between representing complex realities and intervening in them is present in environmental modelling for decision making. Drawing on empirical examples from the field of water management in the UK I will discuss how complexity can be addressed in modelling for the management of socio-hydrological systems.

Article Catharina Landstrom : here

Complexity sciences and Hayek's neoliberalism - Fabrizio Li Vigni

Complexity sciences are one of the most mediatized scientific fields of the last forty years. While this domain has attracted the attention of many philosophers of science, its normative and political aspects have, until recently, not made the object of any systematic study. The present text inscribes in the thin social science literature about complexity and proposes a contribution focused on the political – ideological and organizational – issues of the Santa Fe Institute’s, cradle of the domain. In particular, it illustrates the existence of a certain connection it has with neoliberalism. Two entry points have been chosen. The first is theoretical and deals with the institute’s ontological and axiological views of nature and society, as they are based on a certain reading of Hayek and Darwin. The second entry point is institutional and tackles SFI’s philosophy of fund raising and organizational functioning inspired by Schumpeter. The thesis of the article is that the SFI can be seen as a scientific private institution with some of the characteristics of think tanks, which embodies and justifies a neoliberal view of research based on decentralized innovation, creative destruction and competition.

Complex thinking in organization studies: from theory to practice - David VALLAT

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed uncertainty at the heart of how organizations operate: Should we consider the third wave of the epidemic? Will we have to consider downsizing or reorganizing businesses again? When will we all be truly immune? Uncertainty manifests itself in an environment that appears to be out of control, "complex" to use the concept explored by Edgar Morin (2005), that is to say made up of inconspicuous chains of causalities and feedback loops that blur the reading of events. The pandemic is, however, just one uncertainty among many: climate crisis, political instabilities, energy crisis, volatility in the price of raw materials, technological breakthroughs, etc. To better understand these multiple uncertainties, Edgar Morin suggests adopting a complex thinking: "It is the journey in search of a way of thinking which would respect the multidimensionality, the richness, the mystery of reality, and would know that the cerebral, cultural, social, historical determinations which all thought suffers always co-determine the object of knowledge. This is what I call complex thinking" (Morin, 1980, p. 10). In line with the work aimed at operationalizing the complex thinking of Edgar Morin (Martinet, 2006; Morin and Le Moigne, 1999; Le Moigne, 1999; Avenier 1999), the objective of this presentation is to show how an organization can embrace and practice complex thinking.

Article David Vallat : here

gordon pask and the cybernetic method -  andrew pickering

In 1955 Stafford Beer defined cybernetics as the science of 'exceedingly complex systems'—wicked systems we cannot understand a priori. Many of the systems we struggle with in the world today fall into this category, so it is interesting and important to think about how to engage with them. In 1958 Gordon Pask contrasted the cybernetic method appropriate to such systems with the scientific method. The cybernetician aims to 'maximise' interaction with an assemblage, while the scientist aims to 'minimise' it (hypothesis-testing). Unfortunately, Pask's discussion relates to his very ambitious (and unsuccessful) attempts to develop a structure of metal threads to replace the human management of a factory, which I find impossible to follow in any detail. This talk therefore focusses on a much simpler real-world example, the adaptive management of the Colorado River, and seeks to clarify, expand and possibly correct Pask's image of cybernetic method. Pask saw this method as a way of developing a 'language' appropriate to managing an exceedingly complex system, and I show that 'language' here has to be understood as a 'vocabulary' of patterned actions—a 'conversation' of actions, not words. Pask claimed that such conversations amount to building up a 'concept,' while I argue that they are not oriented to concept-formation but aim instead at a choreography of agencies (a multiplicity of river flows, sediment deposition, dam operations)—in a process that, following Heidegger, I have previously referred to as poiesis. My principal conclusion is, then, that we need to organise our dealings with complex systems in performative and choreographic (rather than scientific and representational) terms. I make a further post-Paskian distinction between science and cybernetics. If science aims at 'detachable' and dualist mechanisms (machines that dominate nature and function independently of us), the cybernetic method gears continuing human actions into nature (the timing of water flows from dams in relation to river-flooding, say). The cybernetic method thus aims at a different sort of end-state from conventional science. If time permits, I will discuss more examples, including psychiatry (also mentioned by Pask) and anti-psychiatry.

Article Andrew PICKERING : here

"Three visions of the futures of forests in a changing climate: the epistemic commitments of forest scientists." - ANtoine dolez

Antoine Dolez, PhD in Sociology, Research Associate in SAGE (Societies, Actors, Government in Europe), Strasbourg University
This talk aims to analyze how forest scientists are envisioning forest futures and how they are anticipating the impacts of climate change on forest dynamics. To do so, I draw on the sociology of epistemic commitments to examine how forest scientists understand the anticipation of forest futures in a changing climate, i.e. what knowledge, what technologies and what knowledge infrastructures should be developed and financed in order to adapt French forests to climate change. With this in mind, I have built three ‘visions of the futures of forests’ which represent the various epistemic commitments of forest scientists.
These visions combine four elements:
1/ a way of conceiving the temporality of the future: linear or disruptive, predictable or unpredictable
2/ a conception of the forest to be known and the ‘ideal forest’ to be shaped. This entails both a knowledge project and an action project
3/ a commitment to the knowledge and technologies that need to be developed to better understand and manage forests
4/ an ‘ethos of anticipation’: how forest scientists perceive their ways of doing science, both as the creation of objective knowledge and as a profession and a cultural, social and technical practice.
This approach thus offers a sociological and socio-political understanding of the current organization of forest research, with an emphasis on the alliances and conflicts that arise from the scientists’ ways of conceiving their scientific practices. The ‘three visions of the futures of forests’ are as outlined below:
A/ the ‘Risky Future’: monitoring, anticipating and managing forests as techno-political devices to reduce climate change
B/ the ‘Disruptive Future’ of the impacts of global change on forests, which are considered as non-linear and stochastic ecosystems
C/ the ‘Historicized Future’ of forests as a result of historical processes and accidents with long-term dynamics
Article Antoine Dolez : HERE

The Complexities of Physics - Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond

I will start by proposing a definition of complexity precise enough so that it goes beyond the commonly vague use of the term and general enough to encompass most of the reasonable attempts to put it at work. Concentrating on physical science, it will then be shown by relying on some specific examples that where a description of the physical situation naturally evokes complexity (in the sense defined), its specific analysis in fact avoids it. One could probably go so far as to claim that physical theory is based on the determined effort to eschew dealing with complexity as such. The possibility of such an escape is intimately linked to the constitutive mathematisation of physics. But we will argue that the spectre of complexity, driven out of the objects of physics, comes back to haunt its practice,which consists indeed, of complex modes of operation resulting from processes that are less simple and linear than is often believed.

Article JM Lévy-Leblond : here

From Cybernetics to Complexity and Back - Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In spite of its explicit goal – the study of “teleological mechanisms” -, of its manifest ambition – the design of autonomous machines – and of its groundbreaking achievements – e.g. the first model of a neural network in the work of Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts and the prolegomena of molecular biology-, cybernetics was never able to reach a full understanding of the nature of life seen as a complex, self-organizing system.It will be shown that this blockage came from the dominance of the engineering mindset that sees in any complex organization in nature and life the result of a design. The theory of complex systems that was born within cybernetics but soon broke away from it (especially in the work of John von Neumann) was able to conceive the idea of a natural machine, that is to say, deprived of a designer. It will also be shown that this momentous breakthrough is today put in jeopardy and the return to the design paradigm more and more a fait accompli due to such technological feats as the NanoBioInfoCogno convergence, synthetic biology and the editing of the human genome.
2 Articles Jean-Pierre Dupuy : here and here



The (non)neutrality of science and algorithms - ANiello LAMPO

The impact of Machine Learning (ML) algorithms in the age of big data and platform capitalism has not spared scientific research in academia. In this work, we will analyse the use of ML in fundamental physics and its relationship to other cases that directly affect society. We will deal with different aspects of the issue, from a bibliometric analysis of the publications, to a detailed discussion of the literature, to an overview on the productive and working context inside and outside academia. The analysis will be conducted on the basis of three key elements: the non-neutrality of science, understood as its intrinsic relationship with history and society; the non-neutrality of the algorithms, in the sense of the presence of elements that depend on the choices of the programmer, which cannot be eliminated whatever the technological progress is; the problematic nature of a paradigm shift in favour of a data-driven science (and society). The deconstruction of the presumed universality of scientific thought from the inside becomes in this perspective a necessary first step also for any social and political discussion.



The Earth system: genealogy of the global environment as a complex system - Sébastien Dutreuil

In this communication, I will highlight the extent to which the ontological and political discourse of Complex System Sciences has influenced Earth system sciences (and related contemporary scientific and political discourses on the Earth). I will then trace the genealogy of this new object and emphasize the interconnection between the history going from Gaia to the Earth system and that going from cybernetics (first and second) to Santa Fe complexity sciences.Over the past decades, the “Earth system” has been constituted as a new object of knowledge and power. Complementing the idea of the “global environment”, the Earth system has been defined as the ensemble of physical, chemical, biological and human interactions occurring at the Earth’s surface. Concepts, scientific and political discourses, theories and modelling practices have underpinned and resulted from the constitution of this new object. New modelling practices such as the diffusion of Earth system models, and the elaboration of models of intermediate complexity have given shape to the “Earth system”. A series of normative concepts have hinged on the “Earth system”, such as the “Anthropocene”, “planetary boundaries”, or the “2°C target”. In the meantime, the “Earth system” has underpinned new modes of legitimation of technical and political management of the planet, such as geoengineering.

Article Sébastien Dutreuil : here


Can gender inequality be created without inter-group discrimination ? -  Floriana Gargiulo

Understanding human societies requires knowing how they develop gender hierarchies, which are ubiquitous. We test whether a simple agent-based dynamic process could create gender inequality. Relying on evidence of gendered status concerns, self-construals, and cognitive habits, our model included a gender difference in how responsive male-like and female-like agents are to others' opinions about the level of esteem for someone. We simulate a population who interact in pairs of randomly selected agents to influence each other about their esteem judgments of self and others. Half the agents are more influenced by their relative status rank during the interaction than the others. Without prejudice, stereotypes, segregation, or categorization, our model produces inter-group inequality of self- esteem and status that is stable, consensual, and exhibits characteristics of glass ceiling effects. Outcomes are not affected by relative group size. We discuss implications for group orientation to dominance and individuals' motivations to exchange.

 Article Floriana Gargiulo : here



Les complexités de la physique - Marc Barthelemy

I will try to present the point of view of a "practitioner" of complexity. Being a theoretical physicist interested in cities, I am confronted to the difficulties - not of quantifying the degree of complexity of urban systems - but mainly how to model such a system. In this respect, I advocate for a pragmatic approach, mostly inspired by statistical physics.

The fundamental starting point for such an approach is the availability of data and the existence of a reproducible empirical fact. In order to illustrate this type of approach, we can consider a recent study [1] about Zipf's law. If we rank cities in a given country according to their population, Zipf [2] proposed almost 100 years ago that the population of a city is inversely proportional to its rank. This law has been tested on many periods and for many countries and seems to be (roughly) correct.

The second step - and the most difficult one - is then to find a theoretical explanation for this observation and to write an equation for the temporal evolution of urban populations. The modelling of such a complex system relies on the fundamental idea that there is a hierarchy of mechanisms: some processes are dominant and should be able to explain Zipf's law. Other mechanisms are "details" and merely represent negligible second-order corrections. The important guide is then the comparison of predictions of the model with the observation and which allows for possible corrections to the theory. There are however many traps at this modelling stage. The first one is to propose a mathematical theory with predictions in qualitative agreement only with empirical observations. This problem appears often in economics and is for example the case of Krugman's model [3] for the agglomeration of industrial activity in cities: Krugman proposed a nonlinear equation displaying concentration effects but without any quantitative empirical validation. The second trap is maybe trickier (but also very common): it is in general not (too) difficult to construct a mathematical model whose predictions are in agreement with the observations but that relies on unrealistic assumptions. This is what happened for Zipf's law: the economist Gabaix proposed a stochastic equation that predicts this law [4] (and this approach is considered so far to be the correct explanation) but it relies on the incorrect assumption that cities cannot disappear. In order to avoid such a problem, the model should be based on realistic assumptions and also gives more than one prediction. In general, it is the tension between the smallest number of assumptions (and parameters) and the largest number of predictions empirically verified that leads to a good modelling. This is what we applied in the case of Zipf's law [1]: starting from first principles, we were able to derive an equation for urban population. Interestingly enough this derivation is based on the generalized central limit theorem, a simple mathematical illustration of how details are irrelevant at large scales (we could surmise that the presence of the sum of many terms is an important condition for the possibility of constructing a mathematical description of such complex systems). This equation explains why Zipf's law is in general an approximation and in fact, most of the time not valid. It also explains dynamical effects such as the rise and fall of cities. In addition, this mathematical modelling allows us to identify the main ingredient for understanding the temporal evolution of urban population and which is the existence of very large and rare inter-urban migratory shocks. This shows in particular the importance of political decisions and planning and more generally, how a theoretical approach to complex systems can be helpful for practical considerations.

 [1] Zipf, G. K. Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort (Addison-Wesley, 1949).

[2] V. Verbavatz & M. Barthelemy, "The growth equation of cities", Nature 587, pages 397–401 (2020).

[3] P. Krugman. The self-organizing economy, Blackwell, 1996.

[4] X. Gabaix. "Zipf's law for cities: an explanation." The Quarterly journal of economics 114.3 (1999): 739-767.

Article de Marc Barthelemy : here



The monetization of ecosystemic services - Victor Lefèvre

From Costanza et al. (1998) economists and ecologists have published an extensive literature on the assessment of the monetary value of ecosystem services. Following this economic assessment, it has been proposed to create a market of ecosystem services (cf Maris (2014)). The main idea is to discharge the legal obligation of ecological compensation for the damage of one ecosystem by paying for the repair or development of an other. This project is hotly debated, mainly fought by environmentalist movements for ethical and political reasons. I propose to step aside for examining the issue on a theoretical point of view : are all conditions set for the commodification of ecosystem services ? Is it possible to built an efficient market of ecosystem services, a market with low costs of transactions and prices reflecting correctly the values of ecosystem services? Could we use biodiversity as an unit of account despite the plurality of values of ecosystem services and the sensitivity to initial conditions of many ecosystem models ? I will give some reasons to query the possibility of an universal market of ecosystem services which however don't imply to thrown away all the work made in environmental economy.  




"CosmoTech: from complexity research to business", Michel Morvan

In this presentation, we are going to present the way the fruit of our scientific academic work on complex systems modeling and simulation has been transferred into a startup company in order to make it possible for the industrial sector to use it. We will share both how some industrial actors have been receptive to the ideas and concept we proposed and their implementation in software solutions, but also how hard it can be sometimes to go upsrteam to promote very innovative approaches. We will also share our experience of the specific constraints of the business world and how they are compatible with research and innovation.



"A non-imperialist physics", Quentin Rodriguez

Back to Prigogine: An ambiguous relation with reductionism at the dawn of complex systems field
The Belgian chemical physicist Ilya Prigogine (1917-2003) has been an early proponent of complex systems approaches (Nicolis & Prigogine 1977). As such, he has often been presented as an opponent to physicalist reductionism. A critical examination of his scientific work shows nevertheless an ambiguous relation to reductionism. Moreover, this relation deeply changed over his career, allowing to distinguish between two Prigogine. The "first Prigogine" (1940s –
mid-1970s) tried to reactivate Pierre Duhem's dream of a "generalized thermodynamics," an autonomous and phenomenological theory unifying the entire field of the macroscopic phenomena. The "second Prigogine" (starting from mid-1970s) engaged in an alternative microscopic dynamics, departing from the standard statistical mechanics, in order to deduce the laws of thermodynamics from a microscopic theory. However, Prigogine did not underline this change of viewpoint, blurring the meaning of his work in the second part of his career (see Lombardi 2012, or Chibbaro, Rondoni & Vulpiani 2014). I argue that these ambiguities are useful to understand the shaping of modern complex systems field, whose relation to reductionism is more complicated than promotional speeches often claim.


Article Quentin Rodriguez : here



"Thermodynamics as the science of complexity in Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers' Order out of chaos (1979). Is thermodynamics really able to help social sciences? - Emmanuel Bertrand

In 1979, Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers published a French bestseller, La Nouvelle Alliance. Métamorphose de la science (Gallimard), mainly about philosophy and history of physics. The Belgian theoretical physicist and chemist Prigogine had won the Nobel Prize in chemistry two years earlier, and Stengers was still working on her doctoral thesis in philosophy of science, under his supervision. This book, translated in English in 1984 as Order out of Chaos. Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (Bantam Books), is both dense and complex, and includes rigorous technical developments. Focusing on both dynamics and thermodynamics, the authors propose a grand narrative for the historical evolution of European physics - from the works of Newton to the emergence of relativity and quantum mechanics. They also describe the recent developments in thermodynamics, insisting on the work conducted in Prigogine’s group at Brussels’ University. In particular, the authors attribute to out-of-equilibrium thermodynamics a very extensive interpretative power. For them, thermodynamics can be used outside its physics context of elaboration, and can be very helpful to interpret and model a great range of ecological, economic, social and even psychological phenomena.

Article Emanuel Bertrand : here