Edgar Morin’s Theory of Complex Thought

Everyone has their own view of the facts, in addition to being influenced and, why not say, indoctrinated by the principles into which, unconsciously, their school, their social group or their family have plunged them.

Morality is something that varies greatly depending on where you were born, but the truth is that with the development of society as we know it today, it seems that local morality is no longer a thing. as solid and valid as before.

In the philosophy of Edgar Morin the idea is to opt for a more holistic view of the facts, both in terms of scientific knowledge and ethical-moral perception, and to understand that more than differentiated cultures, we are part of a huge planetary culture.

    In his Theory of Complex Thought, he seeks to explain how this view should be fostered, and this article focuses on attempting to explain his proposition in more detail.

    Complex Thinking Theory: What is it?

    The notion of complex thought was invented by the French philosopher and sociologist of Sephardic origin Edgar Morin, Born Edgar Nahum.

    This idea refers to the ability to connect different dimensions of reality, which has been characterized by the acquisition of more and more components, as humanity has progressed and evolved. Reality could be compared to a fabric, made up of several fabrics and therefore something really complex.

    The greater the complexity, the more you have to take into account the details of the society in which you live. The person should not think about reducing what he is experiencing, nor opt for a position based on one or a few facts. Therefore, due to the characteristics of today’s society, it is necessary for a person to have a well-founded opinion carefully to reflect the information he receives. This thinking ability is what Morin called complex thinking..

    Complex thought is, in essence, a strategy that has a globalizing intention, that is to say that it seeks to encompass all the phenomena of which it is present, but taking into account its peculiarities as different events . This concept is totally opposed to that of simplifying thinking, which unifies all knowledge into a single vision, canceling out the possible diversity that there is and orienting towards the person, is a student or even a teacher, towards a “ blind to the ‘intelligence’.

    The term complexity, in the thought of Edgar Morin, can be represented as a kind of large network, the fine threads intertwine and connect their components. The threads of discussion are events, actions, interactions, feedback, determinations, chances of constituting the world.

    The complex reflection addresses questions, both deep and mundane, such as the preoccupation with where the human species is going, the social problems that arise each decade and how they can be solved with the proper education.

    Complex thinking is not an innate thing. He must be educated and his application strengthened. The pedagogical philosopher Matthew Lipman felt that it was extremely necessary to instill this type of thought in children from an early age. Complex thinking has the remarkable peculiarity of not accepting a fact as something powerful and undoubtedly believable, but reinforces the search for other options, to explore and to see to what extent what is perceived is true or no.

    The seven basic skills for the education of the future

    Edgar Morin believes that education should aim to encourage reflection in its students. Students should not accept the facts as something that is undoubtedly true, but should seek, as if actually using the scientific method, possible alternative explanations to the knowledge acquired.

    Thus, in 1999, Morin proposed the seven basic knowledge or principles for the education of the future, Which were published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. According to this philosopher, every society, whatever its culture, should try to promote this knowledge in its population.

    1. Cure the blindness of knowledge

    Any knowledge carries a risk of error, which can be more or less. As has always been the case with science, there is data which at some historical point is believed to be true and, upon further investigation, is refuted.

    Knowledge is something that evolves and can therefore be very relative and fragile. Therefore, students should learn that what they are learning is something that can accommodate change over time and that they are not absolute truths.

    So you have to be critical with your own knowledge.

    2. Ensure relevant knowledge

    This principle, particularly important in the era of new technologies, it refers to the importance of knowing how to consciously select the bombardment of data and information we receive.

    There is a need to detect what truthful information is, with expert opinion behind it. It is also important to understand what the real problems are and what kind of information is appropriate to be able to solve them.

    General intelligence is based on knowledge accepted by the population, but also on the criticisms made of it.

    3. Teach the human condition

    The human species is divided into ethnic groups, religions, languages, countries, nations … That is why it is very important to understand that even if there are differences, everyone is part of the same humanity.

    You have to know how to appreciate cultural diversity and not try to homogenize humanity, but also understand that everyone has the same rights and obligations.

    People need to be contextualized according to the situation in which they live, and not as something that is unmistakably inseparable.

    4. Teach earthly identity

    In relation to the previous point, it must be understood that the thousands of years of human history have shown how what at the beginning must have been the same ethnic group, a virgin culture, spread and fragmented for good. others.

    However, thanks to the advent of technology, either through intercontinental transport or through computer networks, it is very easy to establish contacts with people of cultures radically different from one’s own.

    It should be understood that the development of humanity must be encouraged not only in economic termsBut also, and thanks to the emergence of these technologies, promote intellectual, emotional and moral development in the world.

    National, regional and local identities are good, but the identity that unites all peoples, as citizens of the Earth and therefore members of a terrestrial mega-culture, has always been overlooked.

    5. Dealing with uncertainties

    Uncertainty, in and of itself, doesn’t have to be a good or a bad thing. Students should be taught that history will always be faced with a situation of uncertainty, in which the next phase may involve a major breakthrough or, on the contrary, a real catastrophe.

    History, as happened with biological evolution, is not a linear thing. It advances by means of deviations and shortcuts, that can cause that a moment there is a great progress and, in others, it seems that it returns to the starting point.

    The randomness and lack of control of the whole system is undoubtedly unique to the human condition.

    This, in turn, is applicable to knowledge, which can also be uncertain. The discovery may not be as true as thought when evidence emerged to disprove it.

    6. Teach understanding

    Understanding should be fostered both within the group itself (in-group) and in relation to people from different groups, Whether in cultural, linguistic, religious or other.

    It is very important to understand that understanding and communication are not synonymous. Despite the existence of new technologies that facilitate contact between very different people, this does not mean that the ethical codes present in each culture have been outdated, or that those of the other ethnic group are understood.

    A person’s moral values ​​can be a barrier when it comes to putting yourself in another person’s shoes. The great enemies of understanding, according to Edgar Morin, are egoism, ethnocentrism and sociocentrism.

    Teaching to understand it is to teach not to reduce the human being to one or more of his qualities, because, in fact, these are multiple and complex.

    7. The ethics of humanity

    Ethics should be encouraged not only in individual terms, i.e. that each person has a respectful morality towards others, but that the idea that the group to which he belongs behaves morally by establishing contact with others is also encouraged.

    In addition, the creation and teaching of an ethics valid for all humanity, a sort of equivalence of human rights but in terms of moral obligations, must be encouraged.

    It is understood, in Morin’s opinion, that the ultimate exponent of this principle is to make democracy common to all countries of the world.

    This democracy should not be synonymous with the dictatorship of the majority, but should be a form of government in which, although some will have a greater voice, the multiple opinions of their citizens are respected and heard.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Morin, E. (1992). From the concept of a system to the paradigm of complexity. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems. 15 (4): 371–385
    • Szekely, E .; Mason, M. (2018). Complexity theory, capacity approach and sustainability of development initiatives in education. Journal of Educational Policy.

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