Thursday, July 16, 2009


Perhaps a platitude, but life is complex. Conducting research on complexity is thus no sinecure. The danger is then that complexity is reasoned away. Nietzsche supposes that “everything is becoming, then knowledge is possible only on the basis of the belief in being [Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), section 518, 281].” Being is then merely a short-cut for referring at a certain point of time to what is becoming. And Lefebvre ads: “Reduction is a scientific procedure designed to deal with complexity and chaos of brute observations. This kind of simplification is necessary at first, but it must be quickly followed by the gradual restoration of what has thus been temporarily set aside for the sake of analysis. Otherwise a methodological necessity may become a servitude, and the legitimate operation of reduction may be transformed into the abuse of reductionism [Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, ?), 105-6].” Wittgenstein proposes a contextual form of research. Wittgenstein goes against the common academic practice of reflection with infinite regress. He does not believe in treating research objects as atoms that can be isolated from a context. They can only function – and thus analyzed and understood – relationally and contextually. Science, Wittgenstein claims, is not about “facts; but […] turns of speech [Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1968), section 295, 101].” These are valid concerns for researchers. However, it is important not to forget the actor’s perspective. Are fear, anxiety and (communal) violence caused by the inability to cope with complexity? And if so, can violence be avoided if we know that complexity is basically a fact of life? However, we have to deal with contingency, disagreement, indeterminacy, inconsistency, incoherence, incongruity, ambivalence, heterogeneity, opacity, paradoxy, risk and uncertainty. Nietzsche claims that “[n]ot doubt, certainty is what drives one insane [Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, How one Becomes What one is, trans. and ed. by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1969), “Why I am so clever,” section 4, 246].” And Albert Camus claims in The Myth of Sisyphus that anxiety can lead to either suicide or to freedom, but usually we try to hide in the illusion of ongoing normality. We are afraid of absurdity; absurd means contradictory [Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, trans. Justin O’Brien (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980), 19, 33].”

No comments: