Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Consciousness in Rather Than Of: Advancing Modest Claims for the Development of Phenomenologically Informed Approaches to Complexity Theory in Criminology

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Consciousness in Rather Than Of: Advancing Modest Claims for the Development of Phenomenologically Informed Approaches to Complexity Theory in Criminology

Article excerpt

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to utilise developments within complexity theory to make modest arguments for phenomenologically informed approaches in criminology (and social science more broadly). Following the work of Paul Cilliers (Cilliers, 1998, 2005) the term 'modest' describes "reflective positions that are careful about the reach of the claims being made and of the constraints that make these claims possible" (Cilliers, 2005:256). This approach is needed because forms of positivism (randomised controlled trials, experimental method etc) are still dominant in criminological research so it helps to explore the limits of those ontologies and epistemologies. But also despite advances in complexity theory across positivist, post-positivist and constructionist approaches (see e.g. Pycroft and Bartollas, 2014) there is still a tendency in criminology to identify complexity theory with chaos theory, which is in itself a different version of positivism. This gives rise to a performative contradiction (positivism offering a critique of positivism) which may help to explain Milovanovic's (Milovanovic, 2013) complaint that there has been a decline in receptivity and integration into criminology of complexity theory; and notwithstanding the fact that a decontextualized positivism cannot provide us with a meaningful ethic of justice.

After relativity and quantum mechanics complexity theory has been proclaimed as the third revolution in human thinking but central to this discussion is the question of whether complexity (non-linearity, see below) is inherent within the Newtonian paradigm of classical mechanics or whether it represents a break from enlightenment based reductionist and positivist approaches in science and social science. Discussions concerning the potential for performative contradiction are important for criminologists because arguments for various deterministic relationships contra human agency within that paradigm are condiciones sine quibus non in our claims to be able to measure, predict and change social phenomena. To stress the point social scientists are children of the determinism of Newton and Descartes but the logic of these approaches lack an understanding or even awareness of human consciousness as a basis for human actions (see Milovanovic, 2014). These debates are not peculiar to complexity theory and in challenging the traditions of classical mechanics and asserting the importance of complexity theory in literally helping us to rediscover our minds and moral agency it becomes apparent that there are divisions and problems within the 'house' of complexity. Complexity theory has not fulfilled the promise of a unified theory, with key debates focussing on familiar arguments apropos positivism, realism and post-modernism concerning the establishment of laws, regularities and determinism and their relationships to human consciousness and agency. In addressing these debates I will argue for a focus on the importance of complex adaptive systems (CAS) as a heuristic device that reveals the continuities and discontinuities between those differing perspectives, but furthermore for the concept as a locus for debate and study to allow for the possibilities of developing insights from apparently diverse ontological, epistemological and methodological approaches.

To achieve this I will explore the broad parameters of the key debate concerning the reducing of the system to rules and laws (a process of relative disjunction) against complexity as something to be embraced and that is concerned with understanding things only in relation to other things (a process of relative conjunction). An important focus will be on the transformational potential of human consciousness to overcome but importantly not deny or refute determinism within a given phase space. The concept of 'gift,' 'given,' 'givenness' is a key hermeneutical link (developed by Marion (Marion, 2002) building on the work of Husserl, Heidegger and Levinas) - see below) that adds a key ethical dimension to arguments for a relational or empathetic criminology (see e. …

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