From complexity to construction to intersecting processes: Puzzles for theoretical and social inquiry

Although stable systems may be extremely rare as a fraction of the complex ecological systems being sampled (as shown in the 1970s theoretical work of Robert May), they can be readily constructed over time by the addition of populations from a pool of populations or by elimination of populations from
systems not at a steady state. The implications identified in this paper of such a constructionist perspective could challenge not only ecologists, but also theorists in all fields that make use of models without a process of construction over time of the complexity of the situation studied. This paper centers not so much on advancing this perspective, but on two consequent puzzles: Why does the constructionist view seem difficult for theorists to take up? What social implications should be drawn from the resulting view of complexity, especially to the extent that critical events cannot be predicted?

The paper’s exploration of the puzzles is intended to stimulate further theoretical inquiry by readers, as is another puzzle raised in closing: What would follow if the units showing Rosennean complexity were conceived as always making their living, not in well-bounded ecological systems, but within intersecting processes?

Taylor, P. J. “From Complexity to Construction to Intersecting Processes: Puzzles for theoretical and social inquiry,” Ecological Complexity, 35:76-80, 2018

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