A common pursuit: Paul Cilliers’ and Wentzel van Huyssteen’s epistemic attitudes

  • Gys M Loubser
Keywords: Complexity, Postfoundationalism, Epistemology, Rationality, Interdisciplinarity


Paul Cilliers, late professor of complexity and philosophy of science at the University of Stellenbosch, argued that by acknowledging the complexity of particular systems, one is called beyond a foundationalist or relativist epistemology. He advocated for a modest epistemic attitude which recognises the provisionality of our knowledge claims. Advocating for a similar epistemic attitude, Wentzel van Huyssteen, extraordinary professor of theology at the University of Stellenbosch, argues that a postfoundationalist epistemic attitude moves beyond foundationalist and nonfoundationalist epistemologies. A postfoundationalist understanding of rationality facilitates interdisciplinary research by drawing on the concept of transversality and the shared resources of human rationality. This essay illuminates the common epistemic pursuit of both these highly respected scholars and illustrates the modesty of a postfoundationalist model of rationality. Furthermore, this essay proposes that by strengthening Van Huyssteen’s postfoundationalist approach with the insights generated by Cilliers on complex systems, sustainable interdisciplinarity could be realised.