PSA 1972 pp 67-86 | Cite as

Complexity and Organization

  • William C. Wimsatt
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 20)


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.


Theoretical Perspective Functional Organization Functional System Slime Mould Descriptive Complexity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ando, Albert, Fisher, F. M., and Simon, H. A., 1963, Essays on the Structure of Social Science Models, MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  2. Ashby, W. R., 1956, An Introduction to Cybernetics, Chapman and Hall, Ltd., reprinted in 1960 by W. J. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Berkeley, Bishop George, 1709, An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision.Google Scholar
  4. Bergmann, Gustav, 1957, Philosophy of Science, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.Google Scholar
  5. Boden, Margaret, 1970, ‘Intentionality in Physical Systems’, Philosophy of Science 37, 200–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boden, Margaret, 1972, Purposive Explanation in Psychology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Campbell, Donald T., 1958, ‘Common Fate, Similarity, and Other Indices of the Status of Aggregates of Persons as Social Entities’, Behavioral Science 3, 14–25.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, Donald T., 1959, ‘Methodological Suggestions from a Comparative Psychology of Knowledge Processes’, Inquiry 2, 152–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell, Donald T., 1972, ‘Ostensive Instances and Entitativity in Language Learning’, forthcoming in N. D. Rizzo (ed.), Unity Through Diversity, vol. III, Gordon and Breach, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Fodor, Jerry, 1965, ‘Functional Explanation in Psychology’, in Max Black (ed.), Philosophy in America, Allen and Unwin, London, pp. 161–179.Google Scholar
  10. Fodor, Jerry, 1968, Psychological Explanation, Random House, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Globus, Gordon G., 1972, ‘Biological Foundations of the Psychoneural Identity Hypothesis’, Philosophy of Science 39, 291–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goodman, Nelson, 1966, The Structure of Appearance, second edition, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis.Google Scholar
  13. Gregory, R. L., 1959, ‘Models and the Localization of Function in the Central Nervous System’, National Physical Laboratory Symposium No. 10, pp. 671–681. Reprinted in C. R. Evans and A. D. J. Robertson (eds.), Key Papers: Cybernetics, Butterworths, London, pp. 91–102.Google Scholar
  14. Gregory, R. L., 1961, ‘The Brain as an Engineering Problem’, in W. H. Thorpe and O. L. Zangwill (eds.), Current Problems in Animal Behavior, Cambridge University Press, London, pp. 307–330.Google Scholar
  15. Gregory, R. L., 1962, ‘The Logic of the Localization of Function in the Central Nervous System’, in R. Bernard and B. Kare (eds.), Biological Prototypes and Synthetic Systems, vol. 1, Plenum Press, New York, pp. 51–53.Google Scholar
  16. Gregory, R. L., 1969, ‘On How So Little Information Controls so much Behavior’, in C. H. Waddington (ed.), Towards a Theoretical Biology, vol. 2, University of Edinburgh Press, Edinburgh, pp. 236–247.Google Scholar
  17. Gunderson, Keith, 1970, ‘Asymmetries and Mind-Body Perplexities’, in M. Radner and S. Winokur (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 4, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 273–309.Google Scholar
  18. Jukes, Thomas H., 1966, Molecules and Evolution, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Kauffman, Stuart A., 1971, ‘Articulation of Parts Explanations in Biology’, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science (ed. by R. C. Buck and R. S. Cohen), vol. 8, pp. 257–272.Google Scholar
  20. Kim, Jaegwon, 1971, ‘Materialism and the Criteria of the Mental’, Synthese 22, 323–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Levins, Richard, 1966, ‘The Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology’, American Scientist 54, 421–31.Google Scholar
  22. Levins, Richard, 1968, Evolution in Changing Environments, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  23. Levins, Richard, 1970, ‘Complex Systems’, in C. H. Waddington (ed.), Towards a Theoretical Biology, vol. 3, University of Edinburgh Press, Edinburgh, pp. 73–88.Google Scholar
  24. Levins, Richard, 1973, ‘The Limits of Complexity’, in H. Pattee (ed.), 1973, pp. 11127.Google Scholar
  25. Lewontin, R. C, 1970, ‘The Units of Selection’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 1, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Malcolm, Norman, 1964, ‘Scientific Materialism and the Identity Theory’, Dialogue 3, 115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Malcolm, Norman, 1971, Problems of Mind, Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  28. Margulis, L., 1971, ‘The Origin of Plant and Animal Cells’, The American Scientist 59, 230–235.Google Scholar
  29. Pattee, Howard, 1970, ‘The Problem of Biological Hierarchy’, in C. H. Waddington (ed.), Towards a Theoretical Biology, vol. 3, Aldine, Chicago, pp. 11136.Google Scholar
  30. Pattee, Howard (ed.), 1973, Hierarchy Theory: The Challenge of Complex Systems, Braziller, New York.Google Scholar
  31. Platt, John R., 1967, ‘Theorems on Boundaries in Hierarchial Systems’, in Albert G. G. Wilson, L. L. Whyte and Donna Wilson (eds.), Hierarchial Structures, American Elsevier, New York, pp. 201–213.Google Scholar
  32. Putnam, Hilary, 1967, ‘The Mental Life of Some Machines’, in H. Castañeda (ed.), In-tentionality, Minds, and Perception, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, pp. 177–213.Google Scholar
  33. Raff, R. A. and Mahler, H. R., 1972, ‘The Nonsymbiotic Origin of Mitochondria’, Science 177, 575–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shaffer, Jerome, 1961, ‘Could Mental States Be Brain Processes?’, J. Phil 58, 813–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shaffer, Jerome, 1965, ‘Recent Work on the Mind Body Problem’, Amer. Phil. Quart. 2, 81–104.Google Scholar
  36. Shapere, Dudley, 1971, ‘Scientific Theories and Their Domains’, forthcoming in Frederich Suppe (ed.), The Nature of Scientific Theories, University of Illinois Press, Urbana.Google Scholar
  37. Simon, Herbert A., 1962, ‘The Architecture of Complexity’, reprinted in Simon (1969), pp. 84–118.Google Scholar
  38. Simon, Herbert A., 1969, The Sciences of the Artificial, MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  39. Von Neumann, Johann and Morgenstern, Oskar, 1946, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, reprinted 1964 by Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Wimsatt, W. C, 1971, The Conceptual Foundations of Functional Analysis, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Philosophy.Google Scholar
  41. Wimsatt, W. C, 1972, ‘Teleology and the Logical Structure of Function Statements’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 3, 1–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wimsatt, W. C, 1973, ‘Spatiality and the Mental Realm’, in preparation (dittoed draft, December, 1972.)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • William C. Wimsatt
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. of Biology, and Committee on the Conceptual Foundations of ScienceUniversity of ChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of Philosophy, and Committee on The Conceptual Foundations of ScienceUniversity of ChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations