International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.


APPROACH (Hazards of the systemic) 3)

Joel de ROSNAY describes in the following way some distortions which could discredit the systemic approach:

"In order to better dismystify the systemic approach and allow it to maintain a transdisciplinary attitude and a training for the control of complexity and interdependence, should we not even reject the very term of systemic approach or method? Everyone can learn to "stand back". Global vision is not a preserve of the great managers, the philosophers and the scientists. To learn the use of the macroscope, to apply the systemic rules, to build more rigorous mental models and even to be able to control the interplay of interdependences (can be done)".

"But we should not occult the hazards of a too systematic use of the systemic approach. A purely descriptive approach from the exclusive relational angle leads quickly to a useless collection of models of the different natural systems. The excessive generality of the systems concept may also be turned against it. Its fecundity may be destroyed by sterile triviality. All the same, the ill controlled use of analogies, homologies or isomorphies may lead to some complicated in spite of clarifying interpretations because they are based on superficial similarities, more than on basic principles and laws common to all systems. According to E. MORIN, "too much unification risks to lead to abusive simplifications, obsession and thought recipes".

"Once more we are threatened with the dogmatic danger if we draw the systemic approach back to an intransigent systemism or to a reductionist biologism. We are threatened by the seduction of models conceived as results of insight instead of starting points for research"

"One of the worse risks which threatens the systemic approach is to be tempted by a "unitary theory" (a "theory of everything"), an englobing model which should have a solution for everything and could predict everything. The use of the mathematical language – generalistic by its nature and vocation – may lead to a formalism apt to isolate the systemic approach instead of opening it to practice. The "General Systems Theory" barely escapes to this risk: at times it secludes itself within the theory of graphs languages, the theory of sets, the theory of games, the theory of (quantitative) information, at times it becomes no more than a set of descriptive approaches, many times quite illuminating, but devoid of practical applications.

"The operative systemic approach is one way to reach beyond these alternatives. It avoids the risky pitfalls of paralysing reductionism and englobing systemism. It opens the way towards knowledge transmission, action and creation.

"About knowledge transmission, the systemic approach offers a conceptual reference frame which helps to organize knowledge in the course of its acquisition, reinforces its memorization and make its transmission easier.

"About action it enables to obtain rules to approach complexity and allows for the correct location and hierarchization of elements, basic for decision making.

"Finally about creation, the systemic approach catalizes imagination, creativity and invention. It supports inventive thinking, while the analytic approach supports inquiring thinking. Systemic thinking should be tolerant and pragmatic, open to metaphor, analogy and model, formerly excluded from the "scientific method" and now rehabilitated. For the systemic approach, anything which ends partition of knowledge and releases imagination is welcome: it should be open, just as the systems its inquires" (1975, p.128-30)


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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