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.


AWARENESS (Critical) 1)2)3)

Awareness is a very ambiguous notion. Everybody believes being "aware". But the fact is that there are many different forms and qualities of awareness. Critical awareness is widely discussed by M. JACKSON in his most recent book (2000, p. 356), as a basic foundation for systems thinking in general.

JACKSON basically distinguishes a hard approach and a soft one to complex situations and issues. He quotes CHECKLAND's opinion that "hard sytems thinking is guided by functionalist assumptions: the world is seen as made of systems that can be studied objectively and that have identifiable purposes" (Ibid).

Leaving aside the "observing systems" problem (von FOERSTER, 1981), the most favored tool of hard system thinking will be linear causality or, at most, a kind of cybernetical mechanicism. In short, the quality of awareness depends on the range and quality of perception and on the limits of our conceptual frame of references.

JACKSON commends a wider sociological approach to the awareness problem:"with CHURCHMAN, ACKOFF and CHECKLAND, systems thinking becomes much more subjective, and the emphasis shifts from attempting to model systems "out there" in the world toward using systems models to capture possible perceptions of the world". Furthermore this leads to "structure and enhance debate among stakeholders" so that an accomodation about action to be taken can emerge"(lbid)

In short, critical awareness should be kind of stereoscopic or holographic. This view should meet JACKSON's conclusion: "Critical awareness, incorporating social awareness, became one of the central principles of critical systems thinking and remains so to this day. The main problem, of course, is that the apparent strengths and weaknesses of any particular systems approach will vary dramatically depending upon the paradigm from which it is observed and judged"(lbid., p. 357). And moreover: "Critical awareness involves". Criticizing the theoretical underpinnings, strenghts and weaknesses of available systems methodologies and the usefulness of the variety of systems models, methods, tools and techniques in the service of different methodologies"(lbid, p.375)


  • 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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