IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Closed models and open systems

  • Brian Loasby

Rational choice theory relies on premises that are correct and complete; but, in general, neither can be assured. Knowledge is an open system of selected relationships and the adequacy of our representations of phenomena is always subject to Knightian uncertainty. The management of industrial research projects requires the exploration of this uncertainty, with the aid of provisionally closed models. Systems are defined by their elements and their connections, and the incompleteness of connections aids adjustment to external change and also promotes novelty - much of it unsuccessful, for it cannot be rationally generated - through variations in the degree and dimensions of closure. We create knowledge by creating patterns, grouping phenomena by selective (and problematic) criteria of similarity; and coherence between patterns is important for individuals and organizations. Adam Smith's psychological and evolutionary theory of the growth of knowledge, like the epistemology of modern science, rests on human cognition and the intersubjectivity that it makes possible. Genetically based evolution has progressed from the specification of behaviour to an endowment of motivation and the capacity to create patterns, encouraging search and the development of rules and conventions to aid individual thought as well as interactions. Uncertainty is the precondition of imagination; closure in some dimensions allows us to explore in others, and to absorb new ideas within a particular range. In 1861 Carlo Cattaneo argued that development resulted from two characteristics of the human mind: intelligence and will. These characteristics may be represented by selected connections and selected closures, which guide our actions.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 10 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 285-306

in new window

Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:10:y:2003:i:3:p:285-306
Contact details of provider: Web page:

Order Information: Web:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:10:y:2003:i:3:p:285-306. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael McNulty)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.