Skip to main content


The Center Leo Apostel (CLEA) was founded in 1995 as a transdisciplinary research department, situated at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). It is named after the Belgian philosopher and logician Leo Apostel (1925-1995). Apostel donated the money of the Solvay prize, which he received for his life work, to the VUB in order to create such a center.


Leo Apostel

Leo Apostel (1925 – 1995) was a Belgian philosopher and professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Ghent University. Apostel was an advocate of interdisciplinary research and the bridging of the gap between exact science and humanities.

More information:



The strength of CLEA lies in its research philosophy, which we characterize as “thinking beyond boundaries”. This approach may be described as ‘transdisciplinary’ or 'a-disciplinary' rather than ‘interdisciplinary’, given that interdisciplines, such as molecular biology or economic geography, often just become new disciplines. Neither fundamental questions about the universe (such as the meaning of life, mind or complex organization), nor practical problems of contemporary society (such as sustainability or globalization), care about disciplinary boundaries. Reality is an interconnected whole that cannot be divided into separate domains.

In CLEA, researchers from very diverse backgrounds work closely together in addressing such basic challenges, without being restricted by traditional boundaries and subdivisions. For us, the significance of the research question is more important than the discipline in which this topic is supposed to be situated. This allows researchers to focus on radically novel, yet promising issues that fall outside the existing categories—such as quantum structures in decision-making, or the emerging intelligence of the Internet. However, this does not prevent them from acquiring highly specialized knowledge in the subject of their research where necessary. A-disciplinarity is not the same as shallow generalism, in which a researcher knows a little about a lot of topics but does not master anything in depth. This philosophy characterizes CLEA internationally as a research center unique in terms of both methodology and research topics.



The somewhat loose structure of CLEA has been defined more clearly, by assigning specific responsibilities to specific people or groups, while maintaining the overall flexibility and democratic structure that characterizes CLEA- in which any member can freely comment on, contribute to, or start an initiative. The following team at present takes care of the day-to-day management:

  • Prof. Dr. Francis Heylighen: scientific director
  • Prof. Dr. Em. Diederik Aerts: founding director
  • Dr. Marta Lenartowicz: director of education
  • Nathalie Degraide: administrative secretary

In practice, CLEA is run mostly in a distributed, democratic, self-organizing manner, which relies on individual responsibility, mutual trust, and quick, informal communications. Indeed, it is thanks to CLEA's broad, international network that it can compete with much larger and more prestigious research institutes. The about 40 researchers working with CLEA are being kept informed and incited to participate in different initiatives via the CLEA-Practical mailing list.

Leo Apostel in his apartment in Ghent, about 1985. Photo: Francis Heylighen