Paul CilliersΒΆ

Professor of Complexity and Philosophy
Centre for Studies in Complexity
Department of Philosophy
University of Stellenbosch

  • B Ing (Electronic Engineering), Univ. of Stellenbosch (1980)
  • BA Hons in Political Philosophy (cum laude), Univ. of Stellenbosch (1987)
  • MA in Philosophy (cum laude), Univ. of Stellenbosch (1989).
  • D Phil in Philosophy, Univ. of Stellenbosch and Cambridge Univ. (1994)

After having worked as a research engineer for over a decade, specializing in computer modelling and pattern recognition using neural networks, he obtained his PhD in Philosophy (supervised by Johan Degenaar of Stellenbosch and Mary Hesse of Cambridge). He was appointed in the Philosophy Department of the University of Stellenbosch in 1994 where he is currently Professor of Complexity and Philosophy. He has been awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation and in 2006 he received the prestigious Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award.

Lecturing specialisation:
  • Deconstruction (Jacques Derrida)
  • Philosophy of Culture
  • Complexity Theory
Research specialisation:
  • Complexity
  • Ethical implications of Complexity Theory
  • Complexity in Transdiciplinary contexts
  • Philosophy of Science

Selected Publications:


  • 1998: Complexity and Postmodernism. Understanding complex systems. London: Routledge. (also translated into Mandarin)
  • 2007: Thinking Complexity. (ed.). Paul Cilliers. ISCE Publishing: Mansfield USA.
  • 2009: (forthcoming). Complexity, Difference and Identity. An ethical perspective. (eds.). Paul Cilliers and Rika Allen.

Chapters in Books

  • 2008: Paul Cilliers, in Complexity: 5 Questions. (ed.). Carlos Gershenson. Copenhagen: Automatic Press / VIP.
  • 2008: Knowing Complex Systems: The limits of understanding, in A Vision of Transdisciplinarity; Laying Foundations for a World Knowledge Dialogue. (eds.). Fr?ric Darbellay, Moira Cockell, J?me Billotte and Francis Waldvogel. Lausanne: EPFL & CRC press.
  • 2007: On the Importance of a Certain Slowness, in Worldviews, Science, and Us: Philosophy and Complexity. (ed.). Carlos Gershenson, Diederik Aerts, and Bruce Edmonds. Singapore: World Scientific Press.
  • 2007: The Philosophy of Complexity (with Francis Heylighen and Carlos Gershenson), in Complexity, Science and Society. (ed.). Jan Bogg and Robert Geyer. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing.

Journal articles

  • On Derrida and Apartheid. South African Journal of Philosophy. 1998, Vol. 17(1), pp.75-88.
  • Beyond the Politics of Positionality: Deconstruction and Feminism. (With E. Holm), South African Journal of Philosophy. 1998, Vol. 17(4), pp. 377-394.
  • Justice, Law and Philosophy. An interview with Jacques Derrida. South African Journal of Philosophy. 1999, Vol. 18(3), pp. 279-286.
  • What Can We Learn From a Theory of Complexity? Emergence, 2000, Vol. 2(1), pp. 23-33.
  • Boundaries, Hierarchies and Networks in Complex Systems. International Journal of Innovation Management, June 2001, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 135-147.
  • What is Complexity Science? A view from different directions. (Review editorial for special edition with K. Richardson). Emergence, 2001, Vol. 3(1), pp. 5-23.
  • Deconstruction and the Difference between Law and Justice. (with Y. Malan). Stellenbosch Law Review, 2001 Vol. 12(3), pp. 439-449.
  • The Formation of the Self. Nietzsche and Complexity. (with V. Roodt and T. de Villiers). South African Journal of Philosophy, 2002, Vol.21 (1), pp. 1-17.
  • Why we cannot know complex things completely. Emergence, 2002, Vol. 4 (1/2), pp 77-84.
  • Narrating the Self: Freud, Dennett and Complexity Theory. (with T. de Villiers). South African Journal of Philosophy, 2004, Vol. 23(1), pp. 34-53.
  • Complexity, Ethics and Justice. Journal for Humanistics (Tijdschrift voor Humanistiek), Vol. 5 (2004), nr. 19 (Oct. 2004), p. 19-26.
  • Knowledge, limits and boundaries. Futures. Vol. 37 (2005), pp. 605-613.
  • Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism. Theory Culture & Society, Vol. 22 (5), 2005, pp 255-267.
  • From Representation to Emergence: Complexity’s challenge to the epistemology of schooling. (with Deborah Osberg and Gert Biesta). Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 40(1), 2008, pp. 213-227.
Why complexity?