Excerpts from Edgar Morin’s Seven Complex Lessons


If we want this earth to provide for the needs of its

inhabitants, human society must undergo a transformation.  (Preface)


We must rethink our way of organizing knowledge. This means

breaking down the traditional barriers between disciplines and

conceiving new ways to reconnect that which has been torn

apart. We have to redesign our educational policies and

programs. And as we put these reforms into effect we have to

keep our sights on the long term and honor our tremendous

responsibility for future generations. (Preface)


We should teach methods of grasping mutual relations and reciprocal

influences between parts and the whole in a complex world. (p. 12)


Humans are physical, biological, psychological, cultural,

social, historical beings. This complex unity of human nature

has been so thoroughly disintegrated by education divided

into disciplines that we can no longer learn what being

human means. This soluble connection between the unity

and the diversity of all that is human. (p. 12)


The history of the planetary era should be taught from its

beginnings in the sixteenth century, when communication was

established between all five continents. Without obscuring the

ravages of oppression and domination in the past and present,

we should show how all parts of the world have become

interdependent. (p. 13)


Every person who takes on educational responsibilities must be ready to go to the

forward posts of uncertainty in our times. (p. 13)

misunderstanding must be studied in its sources,

modalities and effects. This is all the more necessary in that

it bears on the causes instead of the symptoms of racism,

xenophobia, discrimination. And improved understanding

would form a solid base for the education-for-peace to which

we are attached by foundation and vocation. (p. 14)


Ethics cannot be taught by moral lessons. It must take shape in

people’s minds through awareness that a human being is at one

and the same time an individual, a member of a society, a

member of a species. Every individual carries this triple reality

within himself. All truly human development must include

joint development of individual autonomy, community

participation and awareness of belonging to the human species.

• From this point, the two great ethical/political finalities of the

new millennium take shape: establishment of a relationship of

mutual control between society and individuals by way of

democracy, fulfillment of humanity as a planetary community.

Education should not only contribute to an awareness of our

Earth-Homeland, it should help this awareness find expression

in the will to realize our earth citizenship. (p. 14)


According to Marx, ‘the products of the human mind appear as

independent beings, endowed with individual bodies, in

communication with humans and among themselves’.

Taking this one step further, we can say that beliefs and ideas

are not only products of the mind, they are also states of mind

that have life and power. That is why they can possess us. (p. 24-25)


Learning about learning, which includes integrating the learner into his knowledge, should be recognized by educators as a basic principle and permanent necessity. (p. 27)


The education of the future is faced with this universal

problem because our compartmentalized, piecemeal, disjointed

learning is deeply, drastically inadequate to grasp realities and

problems which are ever more global, transnational,

multidimensional, transversal, polydisciplinary and planetary. (p. 29)


General intelligence

As H. Simon expressed it, the human mind is a ‘GPS’ (General

Problems Setter and Solver). Contrary to what is widely

believed, developing general aptitudes of the mind improves

the capacity to develop particular or specialized skills. The

more powerful the general intelligence, the greater the ability

to treat special problems. Further, to understand specific data

we have to activate general intelligence which operates and

organizes the mobilization of knowledge of the whole for each

particular case.

As knowledge strives to build by reference to the context, the

global, the complex, it must mobilize what the knower knows

about the world. As François Recanati observed:

‘Understanding statements, far from being reduced to pure and

simple deciphering, is a non-modular process of interpretation

that mobilizes general intelligence and draws broadly on

knowledge about the world.’ There is a correlation between

mobilizing knowledge of the whole and activating general


Education should encourage the natural aptitude of the

mind to set and solve essential problems and, reciprocally,

should stimulate full exercise of general intelligence. This full

exercise requires the free exercise of the most well-distributed,

most vigorous faculty of children and adolescents – curiosity –

a faculty that is too often stifled by teaching, instead of being

stimulated as it should be or awakened if it is asleep. (p. 32)


Man is a thoroughly biological being but if he did not fully

dispose of culture he would be one of the lowest-ranking primates.

Culture accumulates that which is conserved, transmitted and

learned, including standards and principles of acquisition.

Man fulfils himself as a thoroughly human being only in and by

culture. There is no culture in the human brain (biological

apparatus able to act, perceive, know, learn), but there is no

mind, no spirit, no capacity for consciousness and thought,

without culture. The human mind is an emergence, created and

affirmed in the brain/culture relationship. Once the mind has

emerged it intervenes in cerebral function and retroacts with it.

This gives us a triad, a brain . mind . culture loop, where each

term is necessary to each of the others. The mind is an

emergence of the brain brought forth by culture and it would

not exist without the brain. (p. 43)


Culture is made up of the totality of knowledge, skills, rules,

standards, prohibitions, strategies, beliefs, ideas, values, and

myths passed from generation to generation and reproduced in

each individual, which control the existence of the society and

maintain psychological and social complexity. There is no

human society, either archaic or modern, without a culture, but

every culture is singular. There is always culture in cultures, but

culture exists only through cultures. (p. 46)