Edgar Morin

Edgar Morin

Edgar Morin is a French philosopher and sociologist who was born in Paris on July 8, 1921 under the original name Edgar Nahoum. He is of Judeo-Spanish (Sefardi) origin. He is known for the transdisciplinarity of his works, in that he covers a wide range of interests and dismisses the conventional boundaries between academic disciplines.


As a boy, Morin enjoyed reading, cinema, aviation and cycling. He began his work in philosophy with a study of diverse types of illustration of the 17th century. He first became tied to socialism in connection with the Popular Front and the Spanish Republican Government during the Spanish Civil War. When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Morin fled to Toulouse, where he assisted refugees and committed himself to Marxist socialism. He took part in the French Resistance and joined the Communist Party in 1941, when the Party was being persecuted by the Gestapo. He participated in the liberation of Paris in August 1944. The following year, he married Violette Chapellaubeau and they lived in Landau, where Morin served as a Lieutenant in the French Occupation army in Germany.

In 1946, he returned to Paris and gave up his military career to pursue his activities with the Communist party. Due to his critical posture, his relationship with the party gradually deteriorated until he was expelled in 1951 after he published an article in "Le Nouvel Observateur" (then known as "France-observateur"). In the same year, he was admitted to the National Center of Scientific Investigation (CNRS) on the recommendation of several intellectuals.

On joining the CNRS, Morin entered the field of social anthropology in the area of cinematography, exploring surrealism, though he still had not abandoned socialism. He shared ideas with Franco Fortini, Roberto Guiducci, Herbert Marcuse, and other philosophers. He founded and directed the magazine "Arguments" (1954-1962). During the same period he was active in protesting the French involvement in the Algerian War of Independence. In 1959 his book "Autocritique" was published.

In 1960, Morin travelled extensively in Latin America, visiting Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. The indigenous and Afro-Brazilian cultures made a strong impression on him. He returned to France where he published "L'Esprit du Temps".

Beginning in 1965, Morin became involved in a large multidisciplinary project, financed by the Délégation Générale à la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (DGRST) in Plozevet. He spent 1965 doing investigation (along with his collaboraters) while living in a rustic cabin in Poulhan. Two years later, when the results were released, Morin was labeled a heretic by the DGRST due to the transdisciplinary nature of the work. This contributed to his increasing aversion to the academic world of Paris, and he spent more and more time working outside the city.

In 1968, Morin replaced Henri Lefebvre at the . He became involved in the student revolts that began to emerge in France. In May 1968, he wrote a series of articles for Le Monde that tried to understand what he called "The Student Commune." He followed the student revolt closely and wrote a second series of articles in Le Monde called "The Revolution without a Face," as well as co-authoring "Mai 68: La brèche" with Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort.

In 1969, Morin spent a year at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. While at the institute, he became familiar with the revolution in genetics initiated by the discovery of DNA, which contributed to his views on cybernetics, information theory and a theory of systems.

In 1983, he published "De la nature de l’URSS," which deepened his analysis of Soviet communism and anticipated the Perestroika of Mikhail Gorbachev.

In 2002, Morin participated in the creation of the International Ethical, Scientific and Political Collegium.

Philosophical development

Morin's epistemological work can be seen as "revolutionary" because of his attempt to reconsider the relation-triangle: ideology-politics-science through what he calls "complexity". The "complex" being here not the opposite of simple but a "method" which "respects the mystery" of the universe knowing that "the simple is just, always, something simplified" by someone.This titanic effort can be discovered in his six volume masterwork "La Méthode," not merely a scientific project but also a complex message from the heart of the 20th century.

According to Alfonso Montuori (in "Edgar Morin: A partial introduction", see below) "The 5 volume Method is perhaps Morin’s culminating work, a remarkable and seemingly inexhaustible treasure trove of insights, reflection, and a real manual for those who are interested in broadening the nature of human inquiry. Drawing on cybernetics, information theory, systems theory, but also integrating all the work he has done before, from the work on imagination in his research on movies to his profound reflections on death, Method integrates Morin’s journey and provides the reader with an alternative to the traditional assumptions and method of inquiry of our time.".

Literary Work


* 1951, "L’Homme et la mort"
* 1957, "Les Stars"
* 1969, "La Rumeur d’Orléans"
* "La Méthode" (6 volumes)
** 1977, "La Nature de la nature"
** 1980, "La Vie de la vie"
** 1986, "La Connaissance de la connaissance"
** 1991, "Les Idées"
** 2001, "L’Humanité de l’humanité"
** 2004, "L'Éthique complexe"
* 1970, "Journal de Californie"
* 1973, "Le paradigme perdu: la nature humaine
* 1981, "Pour sortir du siècle XX"
* 1982, "Science avec conscience"
* 1983, "De la nature de l’URSS"
*1990, "Introduction à la pensée complexe"
* 1993, "Terre-patrie"
* 1994, "Mes démons"
* 1994, "La Complexité humaine"
* 1997, "Comprendre la complexité dans les organisations de soins"
* 1999, "L’Intelligence de la complexité"
* 1999, "Relier les connaissances"
* 1999, "La Tête bien faite"
* 2000, "Les Sept savoirs nécessaires à l'éducation du futur"
* 2001, "Journal de Plozévet, Bretagne"
* 2002, "Pour une politique de civilisation"
* 2002, "Dialogue sur la connaissance. Entretiens avec des lycéens"
* 2003, "La Violence du monde"
* 2003, "Éduquer pour l’ère planétaire, la pensée complexe comme méthode d’apprentissage dans l’erreur et l’incertitude humaine"
* 2003, "Les Enfants du ciel: entre vide, lumière, matière"
* 2004, "Pour Entrer dans le siècle XXI"


* 2005, [http://www.worldscibooks.com/chaos/etextbook/6372/6372_chap01.pdf "Restricted complexity, general complexity"]

ee also

* Sociology
* Anthropology
* Transdisciplinarity
* Holism in science
* Constructivist epistemology

External links

* [http://www.unibg.it/morin/en Babel, a bibliographic website about Edgar Morin's works (in English, French and Italian)]
* [http://www.edgarmorin.org/ www.edgarmorin.org a web site about Edgar Morin in Spanish]
* [http://www.ciis.edu/faculty/articles/montuori/Morin_Montuori.pdf Article "Edgar Morin: A partial introduction" by A. Montuori, California Institute of Integral Studies]
* [http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/07/the_persecution.html The Persecution of Edgar Morin] by Doug Ireland
* [http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=18178&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html An interview and short biography on Unesco's web site]
* [http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/label_france/ENGLISH/IDEES/MORIN/morin.html An interview and biography on France foreign ministry's web site]

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