Comparing chaos and complexity : the quest for knowledge

Greybe, Sylvia Elizabeth (2004-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The question of what it means to say one knows something, or has knowledge of something, triggered an epistemological study after the nature of knowledge and its acquisition. There are many different ways in which one can go about acquiring knowledge, manydifferent frameworks that one can use to search after truth. Because most real systems about which one could desire knowledge (organic, social, economic etc.) are non-linear, an understanding of non-linear systems is important for the process of acquiring knowledge. Knowledge exhibits the characteristics of a dynamic, adaptive system, and as such could be approached via a dynamic theory of adaptive systems. Therefore, chaos theory and complexity theory are two theoretical (non-linear) frameworks that can facilitate the knowledge acquisition process. As a modernist instrument for acquiring knowledge, chaos theory provides one with deterministic rules that make mathematical understanding of non-linear phenomenaa bit easier, but it is limited in that it can only provide one with certain knowledge up until the (system's) next bifurcation (i.e. when chaos sets in). After this, it is near impossible to predict what a chaotic system will do. Complexity theory, as a postmodern tool for knowledge acquisition, gives one insight into the dynamic, self-organising nature of the non-linear systems around one. By analysing the global stability complex systems produce during punctuated equilibrium, one can learn much about how these systems adapt, evolve and survive. Complexity and chaos, therefore, together can provide one with a useful framework for understanding the nature and workings of non-linear systems. However, it should be remembered that every observer of knowledge does so out of his/her own personal framework of beliefs, circumstances and history, and that knowledge therefore can never be 100 percent objective. Knowledge and truth can never be entirely relative either, however, for this would mean that all knowledge (and thereby all opposing claims and statements) is equally correct or true. This is clearly not possible. What is possible, though, is the fulfilling and successful pursuit of knowledge for the sake of the journey of learning and understandi ng.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die vraag na wat dit eintlik beteken om te sê mens weet iets, of dra kennis van iets, het na 'n epistemologiese soeke na die wese van kennis en die verwerwing daarvan toe gelei. Daar is baie maniere waarop mens kennis kan verwerf, baie verskillende raamwerke wat mens kan gebruik om te soek na waarheid. Omdat die meeste wesenlike stelsels waarvan mens kennis sou wou verkry (organies, sosiaal, ekonomies ens.) nie-lineêr is, is 'n verstaan van nie-lineêre stelsels belangrik vir die kennisverwerwingsproses. Kennis vertoon die eienskappe van I n dinamiese, aanpassende stelsel, en kan dus via 'n dinamiese teorie van aanpassendestelsels benader word. Daarom is chaosteorie en kompleksiteitsteorie twee teoretiese (nie-lineêre) raamwerke wat die proses van kennisverwerwing kan vergemaklik. As I n modernistiese instrument vir kennisverwerwing, verskaf chaosteorie deterministiese reëls wat die wiskundige verstaan van nie-lineêre verskynsels bietjie vergemaklik, maar dit is beperk deurdat dit net sekere kennis tot op die (stelsel se) volgende splitsing (d.w.s. waar chaos begin) verskaf. Hierna, word dit naasonmoontlik om te voorspel wat I n chaotiese stelsel gaandoen. Kompleksiteitsteorie, as I n postmodernistiese gereedskap vir kennisverwerwing, gee mens insig in die dinamiese, selforganiserende aard van die nie-lineêre stelsels om mens. Deur die globale stabiliteit wat komplekse stelsels gedurende onderbreekte ewewig ("punctuated equi/ibrium"}toon te analiseer, kan mens baie leer van hoe hierdie stelsels aanpas, ontwikkel en oorleef. Kompleksiteit en chaos, saam, kan mens dus van a nuttige raamwerk vir die verstaan van die wese en werkinge van nie-lineêre stelsels, voorsien. Daar moet egter onthou word dat elke waarnemer van kennis dit doen uit sy/haar persoonlike raamwerk van oortuiginge, omstandighede en geskiedenis, en dat kennis dus nooit 100 persent objektief kan wees nie. Kennis en waarheid kan egter ook nooit heeltemaal relatief wees nie, want dit sou beteken dat alle kennis (en hiermee ook alle teenstrydige aansprake en stellings) gelyk korrek of waar is. Hierdie is duidelik onmoontlik. Wat wel moontlik is, is die vervullende en suksesvolle strewe na kennis ter wille van die reis van leer en verstaan.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/49889
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