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.


CAUSALITY (Principle of absolute) 3)

1) All distinctions are invariant.

2) "All causes of an event are predictable if the states of the system and the behavior laws are known" (K. KORNWACHS & W.von LUCADOU – 1989, p.135).

The principle may be considered as the basic axiom of classical determinism. However according to KORNWACHS and von LUCADOU: "The principle of determinism implies that every event has its special causes. There is no event within the system without any cause" (Ibid).

F. HEYLIGHEN explores some of the foundations of the causality principle in the following way:

"Objects are supposed to have an invariant identity. During their movement they do not disappear or merge with other objects, and no objects are created out of the void or by the breaking up of existing objects. In other words, the distinction between object and background is always conserved

"The attribution of a predicate to an object is objective, and all observers are supposed to agree on it. Hence, the distinction between having a property or not having it is also invariant.

"The same apply to propositions that are either true or false, independently of the observer, and to the time ordering of two events, which are either simultaneous, or the one precedes the other one. Hence, propositional and temporal distinctions are also invariant.

"Again the same principle applies to dynamical constraints: A transition is either allowed or not allowed, without any ambiguity.

"Finally the principle applies to state trajectories: Two trajectories starting at distinct states at a certain instant will always remain distinct and have always been distinct".

In conclusion, all distinctions between objects, between predicates, between different trajectories, between truth and falsity, between past and future, between possible and impossible, are invariant; they remain the same for all times and for all observers. This absolute distinction conservation can be taken to be the defining characteristic of the classical way of representation.

"… each of the nonclassical representation can be characterized by the nonconservation of a particular type of distinctions" (1990 a, p.434-5).

These basically ontological assumptions are very old in the occidental philosophical and intellectual tradition, being already present in Plato (The myth of the Cavern). It has been historically very useful, because it permitted the establishment of the basic sciences of macroscopic simple processes. But it has been a hindrance to the understanding of complexity and the consensual nature of knowledge.

HEYLIGHEN concludes: "… the classical representations are the result of a completely closed observation cycle. The state of the system can be perfectly prepared by the observer, the evolution of prepared states in the system is completely causal, the new states of the system can be perfectly detected, and the observer is supposed to possess all information and knowledge needed to predict or explain the detected states of the system (this is the assumption of perfect, "unbounded" rationality)" (p.435).

This causalism is practically a metaphysical stance and has been the dominant paradigm of classical science since NEWTON. It implies an overly simplifying ontological determinism, which is now in process of deep reconsideration. (see f. ex. M. BUNGE's work – 1979).


  • 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).

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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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