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The Notion of Complexity in Spinoza’s System

In the following sections, I detail the three aspects of a system distinguished by Spinoza: the dimensions, the coordination of parts, and power. This analysis is used to introduce the notion of complexity in systemics. The complexity of an individual human system is necessarily nonconscious. Introspection and perception can only discover some manifestations of this complexity that organizes the mind of an individual. An individual system of representation does not have the capacity to apprehend an organization that follows rules more complicated than what the human mind can imagine. On the other hand, it happens that discoveries achieved by institutions, like institutes of scientific research, produce data that can enrich the imagination of those who have heard of their work. Therefore, all those who have seen cells or constellations in movies have an imagination capable of conceiving that these entities exist. Their mind, if it is taken up by these images, can then research supplementary sources of information by questioning those who study these phenomena, by reading, or by becoming capable of using certain optical tools. This metaphor is pertinent in this chapter because Spinoza was an optician.

The Notion of a Dimension Introduces That of an Organism

The term dimension designates, in Spinoza as in Descartes, entities that have different basic modes of functioning. Spinoza supposes that there exist an infinite number of dimensions in the universe; he admits that the human spirit can conceive of only two: matter and thought. The limits of the human mind make it impossible to know if the human organism has more than two dimensions, but Spinoza supposes that it is probably the case.

For Descartes, the notion of an organism exists only in as much as there is an H gland. Spinoza6 ridicules this reductionism and shows that the organism is a global system7 that has at least the two following functions:

1. The organism structures the dynamics of the body and of the spirit, while at the same time being influenced by them

2. The organism coordinates what goes on in the two dimensions, for the dynamics of these two dimensions cannot interact directly because they function differently.

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