Reflexivity, complexity, and the nature of social science | Complexity & Systems |

In 1987, George Soros introduced his concepts of reflexivity and fallibility and has further developed and applied these concepts over subsequent decades. This paper attempts to build on Soros's framework, provide his concepts with a more precise definition, and put them in the context of recent thinking on complex adaptive systems. The paper proposes that systems can be classified along a ‘spectrum of complexity’ and that under specific conditions not only social systems but also natural and artificial systems can be considered ‘complex reflexive.’ The epistemological challenges associated with scientifically understanding a phenomenon stem not from whether its domain is social, natural, or artificial, but where it falls along this spectrum. Reflexive systems present particular challenges; however, evolutionary model-dependent realism provides a bridge between Soros and Popper and a potential path forward for economics.