CFP: "The Evolution of Complexity" (Brussels, June 1995)



                           Symposium :


Evolutionary and cybernetic foundations for transdisciplinary integration


                      as part of the conference:

                      Einstein meets Magritte:
                  An interdisciplinary reflection on
              science, nature, human action and society

   May 29/June 3, 1995 at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium

About the Symposium:

A symposium organized by the Principia Cybernetica Project (PCP) will be
held at "Einstein meets Magritte", a large interdisciplinary conference at
the Free University of Brussels. The theme is the contribution that
theories of evolution and self-organization, on the one hand, and systems
theory and cybernetics, on the other hand, can make to the development of
an integrated world view.

The basic idea underlying PCP is that evolution leads to the spontaneous
emergence of systems of higher and higher complexity or "intelligence":
from elementary particles, via atoms, molecules, living cells,
multicellular organisms, plants, and animals to human beings, culture and
society. The development of these systems can be understood with the help
of concepts such as self-organization, selection, adaptation, variety,
chaos, hierarchy, autonomy, control, cognition, and metasystem transition.

This perspective makes it possible to unify knowledge from presently
separate disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology,
etc. We thus wish to revive the transdisciplinary tradition of General
Systems Theory, by adding recently developed insights around evolution and
complexity. The resulting scientific/philosophical framework should provide
us with an answer to the basic questions: "Who are we? Where do we come
from? Where are we going to?"

After the organization of symposia at the 8th World Congress of Systems and
Cybernetics (New York, 1990), the 13th Int. Congress on Cybernetics (Namur,
1992), the 12th European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research
(Vienna, 1994), and the 1st Workshop of the Principia Cybernetica Project
(Brussels, 1991), this will be the fifth official meeting of the Principia
Cybernetica Project.

Submission of papers

Send a 1 to 2 page abstract, with references, to F. Heylighen (preferably
by email).

** Deadline: February 1, 1995 **

You will be notified about the acceptance or rejection of your proposal as
soon as possible, but not later than March 1, 1995.

For further information about the Symposium, contact the Symposium chairman:

Dr. Francis Heylighen
PO-PESP, Free University of Brussels, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.
Fax: +32-2-641 24 89.

or check the World-Wide Web page:

About Principia Cybernetica:

The Principia Cybernetica Project (PCP) is a collaborative attempt to
develop a complete cybernetic and evolutionary philosophy. Similar to the
metamathematical character of Whitehead and Russell's "Principia
Mathematica", PCP is meta-cybernetical in that we intend to use cybernetic
tools and methods to analyze and develop cybernetic theory.

These include the computer-based tools of hypertext, electronic mail,
electronic publishing, and knowledge structuring software. They are meant
to support the process of collaborative theory-building by a variety of
contributors, with different backgrounds and living in different parts of
the world. PCP thus naturally develops in the "cyberspace" of data shared
through interlinked electronic networks, as implemented in the World-Wide
Web distributed hypermedia system.

PCP is developed as a dynamic, multi-dimensional conceptual network. The
basic architecture consists of nodes, containing expositions and
definitions of concepts, connected by links, representing the associations
that exist between the concepts. As its name implies, PCP focuses on the
clarification of fundamental concepts and principles of the broadly defined
domain of cybernetics and systems theory, which includes related
disciplines such as the "sciences of complexity", AI, ALife, Cognitive
Science, Evolutionary Systems, etc.

The PCP philosophy is systemic and evolutionary, based on the spontaneous
emergence of higher levels of organization or control (metasystem
transitions) through blind variation and natural selection. It includes:

  a) a metaphysics, based on processes or actions as ontological primitives;
  b) an epistemology, which understands knowledge as constructed by the
subject or group, but undergoing selection by the environment;
  c) an ethics, with survival and the continuance of the process of
evolution as supreme values.

Philosophy and implementation of PCP are united by their common framework
based on cybernetic and evolutionary principles: the computer-support
system is intended to amplify the spontaneous development of knowledge
which forms the main theme of the philosophy.

PCP is managed by a board of editors, presently: V. Turchin (City Univ. of
New York), C. Joslyn (NASA) and F. Heylighen (Free Univ. of Brussels).
Contributors are kept informed through the PRNCYB-L electronic mailing
list, and the Principia Cybernetica World-Wide Web server.

More information about PCP is available on WWW at, by anonymous ftp to, directory
/pub/projects/Principia_Cybernetica, or by email request to

About the Conference:

Einstein meets Magritte:
An interdisciplinary reflection on science, nature, human action and society

Conference to mark the 25th anniversary of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel

                 May 29 / June 3, Brussels, Belgium

Never before has humanity made such an attempt as now to take its fate into
its own hands (science and technology). The increasing speed of current
global changes, however, leads to a sense of disorientation. Need this
paradox be resolved, and if so, can it be dealt with from a perception that
knowledge and actions lead to ever larger fragmentation?

Different attitudes prevail, involving respectively;

(1) an attempt to reconstitute a form of unity, often projecting the hope
that the alleged unwanted effects of scientific and technological progress
will become comprehensible and eventually controllable;

(2) a relativist attitude, depicting the modern worldview, with its
instruments and products (western science and technology), as one among
many conceivable,and probably not the most desirable, course for humanity.

Each of these attitudes tends to portray the other as a caricature.
'Relativists' stigmatize attempts at unification as dictatorial, unfeasible
and naive. Relativism, in its turn, is said to lead anywhere and nowhere at
all. The aim of the conference is to gather scholars from different
domains, inviting them to set up a dialogue between the above attitudes,
and integrate the more relevant insights of both into a new perspective on
global change.

We have taken up the two myths of Albert Einstein and Rene Magritte,
because we believe that where they 'meet' some significant clues might be
revealed. How does science (producing knowledge and technology) confront
art (producing revelations and sensations)? Do we have to oppose life
'within object' (the conscious ordering of the physical and social world,
symbolized in 'Einstein') to a form of life 'beyond object' (symbolized in
the imagery of Magritte)?

Preliminary list of invited speakers:

Zygmunt BAUMAN, Leeds University, United Kingdom. *
Francis CRICK, Salk Institute, USA
Richard DAWKINS, University of Oxford, UK.
Bob EDWARDS, Cambridge University. United Kingdom.
Murray GELL-MANN, Caltech and Santa Fe Institute, USA.
Adolf GRUNBAUM, University of Pittsburgh, USA. *
Douglas HOFSTADTER, Indiana University, USA.
Julian JAYNES, Princeton University, USA.
Daniel KOSHLAND, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Doris LESSING, United Kingdom.
Constantin PIRON, University of Geneva, Switserland. *
Ilya PRIGOGINE, University of Brussels (ULB), Belgium. *
Richard RORTY, University of Viriginia, USA
Michel SERRES, Sorbonne-Stanford, France.
Peter SLOTERDIJK, Germany.
Zeev STERNHELL, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Bas VAN FRAASSEN, Princeton University, USA. *
Francisco J. VARELA, Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France. *
John ZIMAN, United Kingdom.*

(* = invitation accepted)

Different workshops or symposia will be held during the conference, on the
following themes:

Science, society and the university.
The nature of life (and death).
A world in transition.
Worldviews and the problem of synthesis.
The foundations of physics.
Chaos and non-linear dynamics.
The evolution of complexity.

Conference proceedings "Einstein meets Magritte", will be published,
including contributions of participants. Anyone wishing to take part in the
conference, or to receive a second announcement containing a more complete
programme, should fill in the reply form and return it to us.

Conference secretary:

Linda Dasseville
DINF, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
tel: 32 2 629 34 90,
fax: 32 2 629 34 95,

For more information concerning the 'scientific aspect' of the conference

Diederik Aerts
TENA,Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
fax: 32 2 629 22 76

The conference is part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the 'Vrije
Universiteit Brussel', which was founded in 1969 as a separate university
from the 'Universite Libre de Bruxelles'. It is co-organised by CLEA, an
interdisciplinary research centre at this university investigating the
possible ways of integrating different worldviews.

More info is available on the World-Wide Web, at URL:


I am interested in taking part in the conference "Einstein meets Magritte :
An interdisciplinary reflection on science, nature, human action and
society", and wish to receive the second announcement.


I wish (yes\no) to submit a paper, and if 'yes' include with this form
an abstract
I prefer to present the paper :
     ( ) as contributed talk
     ( ) as poster
     ( ) in the Symposium "The Evolution of Complexity"
     ( ) in another Symposium: .....................................
     (indicate preference)

Tentative title of the talk :.......................................


This form should be sent to:

"Einstein meets Magritte", TENA, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2,
1050 Brussels, Belgium.

If you wish to present your paper in the symposium "The Evolution of
Complexity", a copy of this form and the included abstract should also be
sent to:

Francis Heylighen, PO-PESP, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050
Brussels, Belgium.