Publication 7631

Pattee H. H. (1978) The complementarity principle in biological and social structures. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 1(2): 191–200.
Complementarity is an epistemological principle derived from the subject – object or observer – system dichotomy, where each side requires a separate mode of description that is formally incompatible with and irreducible to the other, and where one mode of description alone does not provide comprehensive explanatory power. The classical physics paradigm, on which biological, social and psychological sciences are modelled, completely suppresses the observer or subject side of this dichotomy in order to claim unity and consistency in theory and objectivity in experimental observations. Quantum mechanical measurements have shown this paradigm to be untenable. Explanation of events requires both an objective, causal representation and a subjective, prescriptive representation that are complementary. The concepts of description and function in biological systems, and goals and policies in social systems, are found to have the same epistemological basis as the concept of measurement in physics. The concepts of rate-dependent and rate-independent processes are proposed as a necessary distinction for applying the principle of complementarity to explanations of physical, biological and social systems.
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