Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Complexity theory attempts to explain, at the most general possible level, the interesting features of complex systems. Two such features are the emergence of simple or stable behavior of the whole from relatively complex or unpredictable behavior of the parts and the emergence of sophisticated behavior of the whole from relatively simplistic behavior of the parts. Often, both kinds of emergence are found nested in the same system. Concerning the emergence of simplicity, this essay examines Herbert Simon’s explanation from near-decomposability and a stochastic explanation that generalizes the approach of statistical physics. A more general notion of an abstract difference-making structure is introduced with examples, and a discussion of evolvability follows. Concerning the emergence of sophistication, this chapter focuses on, first, the energetics approach associated with dissipative structures and the “fourth law of thermodynamics” and, second, the notion of a “complex adaptive system.”

Keywords: complex adaptive system, simplicity, stability, emergence, evolvability, statistical theories, difference-making, dissipative structure

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.