Complex systems theory—encompassing nonlinear dynamics, chaos theory, synergetics, dissipative structures, fractal geometry, catastrophe theory, and the like—is a young and fascinating field of scientific inquiry that spans many established disciplines (Mainzer 1996). Long before its full development from the end of the 1960s, Pierre Duhem, at the beginning of the 20th century, anticipated that unstable and complex systems pose challenging problems for scientific methodology. Citing groundbreaking works of Poincaré and Hadamard, Duhem relentlessly questioned widely acknowledged, implicit assumptions in the exact sciences, such as mathematical deducibility/predictability and empirical testability. Duhem was aware that the common denominator of these challenges is instability—a fact that is well known in today’s complex systems theory. But Duhem did not proceed from that point; he restricted science to the domain of stable systems—which is in sharp contrast to recent complex systems theory. Thus, Duhem can be regarded as an interesting watershed figure on the way towards modern philosophy of complex systems.
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