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.



In the first years of 20th Century, physicists came to recognize a logical contradiction between two basic aspects in micro-physics:

"1- "PLANCK- in order to derive the empirical laws of black body radiation- had to assume that electromagnetic radiation is exchanged in discrete units, apparently in contradiction with the classical theory, which considered electromagnetism to be carried by continuous fields of waves.

"This concept was elaborated by EINSTEIN, who introduced the concept of a photon as a discrete, particle like unit of electromagnetic radiation.

"2- Shortly thereafter, an opposite phenomenon was observed: electrons, which were considered to be particles, appeared to undergo interference, which is typical of waves. This double phenomenon… was called the wave particle duality.

"The statement that something is at the same time a particle, hence discrete or discontinous, and a wave, hence continuous, is a logical contradiction.

"The prevailing attitude toward this problem (known as the Copenhagen interpretation) was formulated most prominently by BOHR. According to BOHR, we cannot know physical reality as it is, independently of ourselves. We can only make certain representations of our interactions with physical systems. These representations are necessarily formulated in the language of classical physics. In the case of macroscopic phenomena, however, there is no complete and consistent classical representation: There are only partial representations, such as the wave representation and the particle representation, which are complementary. Complementarity means that the representations are mutually exclusive yet they are jointly necessary (they complement each other) for an exhaustive description of the physical phenomenon" (F. HEYLIGHEN, 1990b, p.479).

This problem in the perception of our environment (already considered by some philosophers – Western and Eastern) only appeared when our research started to interfere significatively with the phenomena we are studying, i.e. when the observation act give itself on the same scale or level of the phenomena. It shattered our belief in our capacity to reach ontological reality and it made us understand that our interactions with our environment are not neutral. This understanding propagated itself slowly to every scientific research and became part of the foundations of constructivism.

Another consequence has been that models in micro-physics, astrophysics and generally every discipline widely separated from our common macroscopic scale of perceptions are becoming completely abstract and untranslatable in common sense concepts.

In J. HORGAN's words BOHR "& held that wave-particle duality is a paradox that cannot be resolved. BOHR also ruled out the possibility that the probabilistic behavior of quantum systems was actually the result of underlying deterministic hidden variables. Reality was unknowable because it was intrinsically indefined, BOHR insisted".

HORGAN pursues: "In 1952 BOHM defied BOHR's prohibition against hidden-variable explanations".

In fact, he reintroduced L.de BROGLIE concept of the permanent existence of particles, guided by a pilot wave. According to HORGAN, BOHM'S introduction of a new force, the quantum potential "was causal, or deterministic. Particles always had a distinct position and velocity, but any effort to measure these properties precisely would destroy information about them by physically altering the pilot wave. BOHM gave the uncertainty principle a purely physical rather than metaphysical meaning. BOHR had interpreted the uncertainty principle, BOHM explained, as meaning "not that there is uncertainty, but that there is an inherent ambiguity" in a quantum system".

BOHM's interpretation did however revived the EINSTEIN-PODOLSKY-ROSEN paradox, which HORGAN states as follows: "According to the standard model of quantum mechanics, neither of two particles (that spring from a common source and fly in opposite directions) has a definite position or momentum before it is measured; but by measuring the momentum of one particle, the physicist instantaneously forces the other particle to assume a fixed position – even if it is on the other side of the Galaxy".

EINSTEIN derided "& this effect as "spooky action at a distance"& that violated both common sense and the theory of relativity, which prohibits the propagation of effects faster than the speed of light".

This "spooky action at a distance" was however experimentally demonstrated by A. ASPECT and his Paris-South University group in 1982, following a mathematical proof by BELL, in 1964. Moreover, "& The reason that nonlocality does not violate the theory of relativity is that one cannot exploit it to transmit information faster than light or instantaneously".(1993, p.40-41).

This posits the general irreversibility of physical phenomena and could indicate the necessity of a still more global understanding, including relativity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics.

All in all, BOHM's nonlocality as well as BOHR's complementarity and HEISENBERG's indeterminacy (or uncertainty ?) principle seems to thrust a shadow of doubt over our most fundamental concepts "& as space and time (which) may be merely explicate manifestations of some "nonlocal, deeper implicate order" according to BOHM" (Ibid., p.452).

Deterministic chaos, for instance, seems to lead to quite similar doubts about the deeper meaning of our mental frames. No systemic ontology can avoid these doubts about our possibility to attain true fundamental knowledge about reality.


  • 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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