Complexity Collection

While the next posts are brewing, I thought to make a list for a few friends who have asked for some reference materials on new trends in complexity sciences (scales, anticipatory systems, the question of formalizing adaptive systems, modeling and new explanatory paradigms).

On a different note: My friend Adam Berg will also start posting on toys, world-building and philosophy of complexity here on this blog. I can go on rambling about Adam’s philosophy for pages. Suffice to say, he is among one of those handful of philosophers who do not admit—in theory or practice—a distinction between analytic and continental camps. His commitment is only to one thing, philosophical exploration in the broadest sense. His masterwork Phenomenalism, Phenomenology, and the Question of Time: A Comparative Study of the Theories of Mach, Husserl, and Boltzmann is more than enough evidence to support this claim.


Complexity: Hierarchical Structures and Scaling in Physics – Remo Badii, Antonio Politi [A classic and technical work in complexity sciences which started a whole genre of inquiry about hierarchization, scales and constraints on modeling.]

Lyapunov Exponents: A Tool to Explore Complex Dynamics – Arkady Pikovsky, Antonio Politi [Another technical work on one of the key concepts in the study of complex and dynamic systems. I agree with Robert Bishop, without an adequate grasp of Lyapunov exponents, it is so easy to fall in the trap of complexity and chaos folklore.]

An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications – Paul Vitányi, Ming Li [Yet another technical title but mandatory for understanding algorithmic complexity and the later works on structural complexity / stability by the likes of Crutchfield and Ladyman]

Simulation and Similarity – Michael Weisberg

Complexity: metaphors, models, and reality – George Cowan, et al. [Occasionally a bit dated but it contains some interesting conversations between Santa Fe people.]

Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality
– William Wimsatt [An expanded and revised collection of Wimsatt’s papers on functionalism, the gradualist approach to modeling and mechanisms]

Discovering Complexity: Decomposition and Localization as Strategies in Scientific Research – William Bechtel [This or Bechtel’s other work Mental Mechanisms. For a good brief critical response to Bechtel-Wimsatt’s paradigm of mechanistic explanation, see Jay Rosenberg’s Comments on Bechtel, ‘Levels of description and explanation in cognitive science’)

In Search of Mechanisms – Carl Craver

No Revolution Necessary – Carl Craver

Levels – Carl Craver [This and Batterman’s essay on scaling and midlevel explanation are quite crucial for not only understanding the problem of descriptive-explanatory levels but also thinking about the potential uses of such paradigms in something like information ontologies or semantic web. See for example, WonderWeb Deliverable.]

The Devil in the Details: Asymptotic Reasoning in Explanation – Robert Batterman

The Tyranny of Scales – Robert Batterman

Physics Avoidance – Mark Wilson [Highly recommended. Wilson’s long awaited book and a sequel to Wandering Significance came out this month.]

Philosophy of Complex Systems – (ed.) Cliff Hooker [Robert Bishop who has an essay in this collection offers a particularly astute crtique of some of the folklores in complexity sciences.]

Anticipatory Systems – Robert Rosen

Theoretical Biology and Complexity – Robert Rosen

Memory Evolutive Systems – Andrée Ehresmann

Simple, Complex, Super-complex Systems – Ion Baianu

What is a complex system? – James Ladyman, et al.

The Calculi of Emergence – James Crutchfield

Modularity in Development and Evolution – (eds.) Gerhard Schlosser, Günter Wagner

Towards a Theory of Development – (eds.) Alessandro Minelli, Thomas Pradeu

Functions – Philippe Huneman [Probably one of the best collections on the new wave of functionalism informed by complexity sciences.]

Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition – (eds.) Wimsatt, et al.

4 thoughts on “Complexity Collection

  1. VoidsIncision, Thanks for the tip. I’m a bit familiar with Friston but not that much so looking forward to text you have recommended. Baianu and Ehresmann whom I have referred to in the list also make good complimentary critiques of Rosen, particularly with regard to the question of modeling and formalization of biological structures.


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