Edgar Morin

Edgar Morin
Born Edgar Nahoum
(1921-07-08) 8 July 1921
Paris, France
Nationality French
Alma mater University of Paris
Notable work La méthode (1977–2004, 6 vols.)
School Continental philosophy
Constructivist epistemology[1]
Institutions CNRS
Main interests
Complexity theory[2][3]
Notable ideas
Criticism of structuralism[5]
Criticism of Ludwig von Bertalanffy's systems theory[6]

Edgar Morin (French: [mɔʁɛ̃]; born Edgar Nahoum on 8 July 1921) is a French philosopher and sociologist who has been internationally recognized for his work on complexity and "complex thought," and his scholarly contributions to such diverse fields as media studies, politics, sociology, visual anthropology, ecology, education, systems biology, and beyond. He holds degrees in history, economics, and law. Though less well known in the United States due to the limited availability of English translations of his over 60 books, Morin is renowned in the French speaking world, Europe, and Latin America.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Morin's family migrated from the Greek city of Salonica (Thessaloniki) to Marseille[9] and later to Paris, where Edgar was born. He is of Judeo-Spanish (Sefardi) origin.

When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Morin assisted refugees and joined the French Resistance.[10] As a member of the French Resistance he adopted the pseudonym Morin, which he would use for the rest of his life. He joined the French Communist Party in 1941.

In 1945, Morin married Violette Chapellaubeau and they lived in Landau, where he 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. In the same year, he was admitted to the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS).

Morin founded and directed the magazine Arguments (1954–1962). In 1959 his book Autocritique was published. The book was a sustained reflection on his adherence to, and subsequent exit from, the Communist party focusing on the dangers of ideology and self-deception.

In 1960, Morin travelled extensively in Latin America, visiting Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. He returned to France where he published L'Esprit du Temps', a work on popular culture.

That same year, French sociologist Georges Friedmann brought him and Roland Barthes together to create a Centre for the Study of Mass Communication that, after several name-changes, became the Edgar Morin Centre of the EHESS, Paris.[11]

Also in 1960 he co-authored the film Chronique d'un été with Jean Rouch an early example of cinéma vérité and direct cinema.

Beginning in 1965, Morin became involved in a large multidisciplinary project, financed by the Délégation Générale à la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique in Plozévet.

In 1968, Morin replaced Henri Lefebvre at the University of Nanterre. 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.[12]

In 1969 Morin spent a year at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

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. In this year, he also had a trip to Iran with Dariush Shayegan.


In addition to being the UNESCO Chair of Complex Thought, Morin is known as a founder of transdisciplinarity and is the holder of a diverse array of honorary doctorates in a variety of social science fields from no fewer than 21 universities (Messina, Geneva, Milan, Bergamo, Thessaloniki, La Paz, Odense, Perugia, Cosenza, Palermo, Nuevo León, Université de Laval à Québec, Brussels, Barcelona, Guadalajara, Valencia, Vera Cruz, Santiago, the Catholic University of Porto Alegre, the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Candido Mendes University (Rio de Janeiro))[13]

The University of Messina in Sicily, Ricardo Palma University in Lima, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the prestigious French National Research Center in Paris, have established research centers based on his transdisciplinary methods and philosophy.[13] In addition, a university was established recently in Mexico based on his work, Multiversidad Mundo Real Edgar Morin.

He did not embrace the French postmodern or poststructuralist movements and instead pursued his own research agenda. As a result, US academics did not transport his theories into disciplinary discourses in same fashion as they did Foucault and Derrida, and he did not slide into the heredities of traditional academic disciplines in the 1980s and 1990s. His work spans scholarly and popular literature, and he has graced the cover of multiple publications including Sciences Humaines and a special issue of Le Monde.

According to Alfonso Montuori in "Edgar Morin: A partial introduction"

"The 6 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."

Works (selection)




See also


  1. Daniel Bougnoux and Bastien Engelbach, "Entretien avec Edgar Morin (2) : Science et philosophie", nonfiction.fr, 10 April 2008.
  2. 1 2 Jennifer Wells, Complexity and Sustainability, Routledge, 2012, p. 134.
  3. Steven Vertovec (ed.), Routledge International Handbook of Diversity Studies, Routledge, 2014, p. 373.
  4. Edgar Morin, Restricted complexity, general complexity, 2005.
  5. François Dosse, History of Structuralism: The sign sets, 1967-present, Volume 2, University of Minnesota Press, 1997, p. 449.
  6. Sacha Kagan, Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity, transcript Verlag, 2014, p. 171.
  7. Morin, Edgar (1997-12-30). "An encyclopaedic spirit". Radical Philosophy. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
  8. Julian Bourg (ed.), After the Deluge: New Perspectives on the Intellectual and Cultural History of Postwar France, Lexington Books, 2004, p. 113.
  9. Edgar Morin, Véronique Nahoum-Grappe, Haïm Vidal Sephiha (1989), Vidal et les siens, Paris: Seuil.
  10. Morin, Edgar; Boukhardi, Sophie (January 2004). "Talking to Edgar Morin: Defining dialogue". UNESCO: the new Courier: 8–11.
  11. "Centre Edgar-Morin". iiac. Archived from the original on October 23, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  12. Van Herpen, Marcel. "PARIS MAY '68 AND PROVO AMSTERDAM '65" (PDF). p. 19. Retrieved 2010-01-23.
  13. 1 2 Montuori, Alfonso (June 2013). "COMPLEX THOUGHT An Overview of Edgar Morin's Intellectual Journey". MetaIntegral Foundation. Resource Paper.
  14. Gershenson, C., D. Aerts, and B. Edmonds (eds.). (2007). Worldviews, Science, and Us: Philosophy and Complexity. World Scientific, Singapore.

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