Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management

Committee Director

Andres Sousa-Poza

Committee Member

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Adrian Gheorghe

Committee Member

Barry Ezell


The uncertainty inherently associated with complexity challenges decision-making processes, indicating a need for a construct for decision making in complex situations. A review of the literature on systems, complexity, and paradigms indicates that such a construct must be internally consistent with well-defined philosophical foundations and further that systems and complexity (as used in complex situations) are not necessarily internally consistent with traditional philosophical foundations. Therefore, a decision making construct for complex situations requires research into different foundations. This research addresses these gaps, deriving axiological and methodological components based on a set of principles consistent with the ontology and epistemology of Sousa-Poza and Correa-Martinez (2005). The combination of these four philosophical components is asserted to establish a Complex Situations Paradigm providing a foundational perspective for complexity and systems.

The characteristics of this research require particular attention to the appropriate research methodology. Canons for research are typically based on philosophical foundations of rationalism or empiricism; hence this research derives a set of generalized canons based on a specific definition of knowledge, which must be instantiated as specific research canons for a given philosophical foundation. The methodology for this research must be consistent with said canons and the associated definition of knowledge.

The product of the research is an internally consistent philosophical foundation for complex situations based on a research methodology using instantiated generalized canons, and an application of the associated methodology to derive a decision making construct. The contributions to the literature are the maturation of underlying theory for complex situations and the generalized research canons. The contribution to theory is the internally consistent philosophical foundation for complex situations, the Complex Situations Paradigm, and the associated discussion of canons. Finally, the contribution to practice is the decision making construct itself, applying the elements of the paradigm to frame action at diverse levels in complex situations.

Areas for further research include the derivation of methods based on the CSP methodology; applications of the underlying constructs to facilitate understanding of complexity through a method designated forensic complexity, and exploration of CSP principles to explore ramifications of cognitive aspects.