Self-organization and self-governance

J. T. Ismael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The intuitive difference between a system that choreographs the motion of its parts in the service of goals of its own formulation and a system composed of a collection of parts doing their own thing without coordination has been shaken by now familiar examples of self-organization. There is a broad and growing presumption in parts of philosophy and across the sciences that the appearance of centralized information-processing and control in the service of system-wide goals is mere appearance, i.e., an explanatory heuristic we have evolved to predict behavior, but one that will eventually get swept away in the advancing tide of self-organization. I argue that there is a distinction of central importance here, and that no adequate science of complex systems can dispense with it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-351
Number of pages25
JournalPhilosophy of the Social Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Dennett
  • dynamics
  • intentional systems theory
  • self-governance
  • self-organization
  • selves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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