Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies

The Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies (CLEA) is an interdisciplinary research centre founded at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 1995 with the aim to construct "integrating worldviews". This encompassing philosophical-scientific concept was originally elaborated by the late Leo Apostel, one of Belgium's most important philosophers.


The Center Leo Apostel was founded in 1995 as a transdisciplinary research department, and situated at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Its scientific council is composed of members of different Flemish universities. The center is elaborated and named after his founder. Apostel donated the money of the Solvay prize, which he received for his life work, to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in order to create such a center.

CLEA's key objectives were summarized by Apostel as:
* interdisciplinarity
* construction of world views
* broad dissemination of scientific knowledge.


A worldview can be defined as a coherent set of bodies of knowledge concerning all aspects of our world. It is to allow us to construct a global image of the world and understand as many elements of our experience as possible. A worldview is a "map" that we use to "orient" and "explain", from which we "evaluate" and "", and put forward "prognoses" and "visions" of the "future". Hence: (i) orient; (ii) explain; (iii) evaluate; (iv) act and; (v) predict are the aspects of a worldview. In a more structured way Apostel put forward these basic aspects as follows:

# A "model of the world" (What is the nature of the world? How is it structured?)
# An "explanation" model (Why is the world the way it is and not different? Why are we the way we are and not different?)
# An "evaluation" model (Why do we feel in our world the way we feel?)
# An "action" model (How can we and do we have to act and create in this world? How can we influence and transform?)
# A rational "futurology" (What kind of future is ahead of us? And what are the criteria that allow us to choose for the future?)
# A "model of model construction" (How do we have to construct a model of the world such that we can answer the above questions?)
# "Fragments" of worldviews as starting points (What are the partial answers that can be given to the above questions?)

The enterprise of building integrating worldviews, on which CLEA is working step by step, is also a scientifically based response to our rapidly changing and complex society, and the ever-specialising Scientific progress of the sciences, which leaves the body of knowledge of our world increasingly fragmented. CLEA's goal is to seek the integration of different approaches of reality, without the loss of specialised insight, "i.e." an interdisciplinary perspective, enabling scientists from different disciplines to work together, enabling interdisciplinary exchange and communication between the sciences and the humanities, between layman and specialist. In particular, CLEA is developing a synthesis of current and cutting-edge ideas and methods from the natural and the social sciences and humanities in order to derive new insights into the nature of "reality" and our "knowledge" about it. As such CLEA explores how insights from one domain - such as quantum mechanics, biology, cognitive science, sociology, philosophy, history of ideas and cultural studies - shed light on another and provide models for problem-solving in integrating worldviews. The concrete research conducted at CLEA since its founding year has been chosen in function of these multiple tasks that CLEA has set itself.

The existence of separate bodies of knowledge concerning parts or fragments of reality has its reasons. The disciplines in the theoretical sciences have not been chosen in an arbitrary way but correspond to a layered organisation of reality itself. Reality indeed shows itself to us in the form of layers. The first is a "pre-material layer" of elementary particles and waves that are the subject matter of quantum physics. This is followed by a "material layer", studied by physics and chemistry. The next layers are those of "living creatures" that make up the field of study of biology, and of "interacting living creatures" studied by sociology. Finally, we have the "psycho-cognitive layer", studied by psychology and cognitive science. This layered structure is considered effective and real and not merely a suitable classification. On the other hand, it is clear that the different layers are not separated, but in constant interaction and connected in all kinds of ways, "i.e." through ", emergent", and "downward causation" influences. They are 'forms of condensation' in reality as an undivided totality. The study of this multi-layered structure of reality, of how the different layers are interconnected, how they emerge one from another, "et cetera", is one of the encompassing research themes of CLEA. Together with the seven themes of the worldviews project referred to above, the layered structure also serves as a canvas for the other more specific CLEA research topics.

Research topics

The investigations are concentrated in thematical projects:

#Canvas topic: The "layered structure of reality", an "integrating worldview model"
#"Cognition", "knowledge acquisition" and "perception of reality"
#The "evolution of systems" and "complexity"
#"Worldviews" and "value systems", "society" and "culture"
#The "generic quantum-classical transition model", "potentiality", "ontology" and " change"

Members of the Center


Diederik Aerts, professor Vrije Universiteit Brussel, quantum structures, cognitive science, evolution theory, foundations of language

Research Personnel

#Sven Aerts, research assistant, interactive statistics, probability theory
#Haroun Amira, research assistant, sociology, interactive statistics
#Jan Bernheim, professor Vrije Universiteit Brussel, oncology, medical ethics
#Jan Broekaert, postdoctoral fellow, quantum structures, cognitive science, space time physics
#Stan Bundervoet, research assistant, sociology, biological evolution, music research
#Marek Czachor, professor technical university of Gdansk, quantum and biological evolution, foundations of language
#Johan Deklerck, research assistant, criminology
#Anouk Depuydt, research assistant, criminology
#Christian de Ronde, research assistant, quantum structures, cognitive science, biological evolution
#Olaf Diettrich, researcher, physics, theory of science, cognitive science
#Ellie D'Hondt, research assistant, quantum computation
#Bart D'Hooghe, postdoctoral fellow, quantum logic, quantum computation, evolution theory
#Liane Gabora, postdoctoral fellow, cognitive science, evolution of culture, creativity research
# [ Carlos Gershenson] , research assistant, complex systems, artificial life, cognitive science.
# [ Francis Heylighen] , professor Vrije Universiteit Brussel, systems theory, cybernetics
#Nicole Note, research assistant, anthropology, sociology
#Jaroslaw Pykacz, professor University of Gdansk, biology, fuzzy sets, quantum structures
#Alexander Riegler, postdoctoral fellow, cognitive science, philosophy of science, constructivism
#Sonja Smets, postdoctoral fellow, philosophy, quantum logic
#Ellen Van Keer, research assistant, classical archeology, mythology
#Karin Verelst, research assistant, philosophy, ontology, research on the nature of paradox


A selected number of core publications of the Center

#Aerts, D. and Gabora, L. (in press). A theory of concepts and their combinations I and II. Kybernetes. [ download preprint 1] [ download preprint 2]
#Riegler, A, When Is a Cognitive System Embodied? Cognitive Systems Research 3: 339–348, 2002. [ download preprint]
#D'Hooghe, B, Pykacz, J and Zapatrin, RR, Quantum computers as fuzzy computers, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2206, Computational intelligence: theory and applications', ed. B. Reusch, Springer-Verlag, 526-535, 2001
#Heylighen, F, Bootstrapping knowledge representations - From entailment meshes via semantic nets to learning webs, Kybernetes, 30 (5-6): 691-722 2001.
#Aerts, D, Aerts, S, Broekaert, J and Gabora, L, The violation of Bell inequalities in the macroworld, Foundations of Physics, 30 (9): 1387-1414 SEP 2000. [ download preprint]
#Heylighen, F and Bernheim, J, Global Progress I: Empirical evidence for increasing quality of life, Journal of Happiness Studies 1 (3), p. 323-349, 2000.
#Aerts, D, Foundations of quantum physics: A general realistic and operational approach, International Journal of Theoretical Physics, 38 (1): 289-358 JAN 1999. [ download preprint]
#Aerts, D, Broekaert, J and Smets, S, A quantum structure description of the liar paradox, International Journal of Theoretical Physics, 38 (12): 3231-3239 DEC 1999. [ download preprint]
#Broekaert, J, World views. Elements of the Apostelian and general approach, Foundations of Science, 3, 235, 1998.
#Aerts, D, Czachor, M and Durt, T, Probing the Structure of Quantum Mechanics: Nonlinearity, Nonlocality, Probability and Axiomatics, World Scientific, Singapore, 981-02-4847-4, 2002.
#Aerts, D, Broekaert, J and Mathijs, E, Einstein meets Magritte; an Interdisciplinary Reflection, Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, 1999.
#Gershenson, C. (2004). [ Cognitive Paradigms: Which One is the Best?] Cognitive Systems Research, 5(2):135-156, June 2004.

External links

* [ Website of the Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies]

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