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.



A common opinion acquired by a group of persons after examination of the elements of a situation or problem and discussion of their meaning.

Consensus implies a way to acquire it. It results from recursive and mutually transmitted experiences on the same objects by different individuals, producing results that are considered similar by the participants. This is possible only if they share a sufficiently common perceptual and conceptual background.

G. PASK states: "… just because of our human limitations there is advantage to be gained if a group of observers, anxious to make the same sort of predictions, communicate with one another and in place of many private images, built up one commonly understood abstraction (such as the hypothetico-deductive structure of science). This will be a public image of the world within which all observations are assimilable and in terms of which behavioral predictions are made" (1961, p.22).

Consensus is the unavoidable condition for common action. However, it tends in many cases to lead to sclerosed stereotypes whose discussion is not anymore allowed. In some cases kinds of pseudo-consensus can be even hammered out and forcefully imposed: A famous historic case has been the so-called MITCHOURINE – LYSSENKO theory of natural selection in the former Soviet Union during the fifties.

Genuine creativity can be easily stiffled if consensus is submitted to excessively limiting constraints within an organization or culture.

Insufficiently informed consensus leads to what J. WARFIELD calls "underconceptualization", or to G.de ZEEUW's invisibility.

This danger is also implicitly emphasized by G. PASK: "An observer who subscribes to the plan, must limit himself to observations that are mutually intelligible and which can be assimilated" (Ibid).

G. VICKERS observed, from another viewpoint, that consensus reaching is a strenuous problem, because of "… the delays inherent in the processes of generating a sufficiently shared view of the situation, a sufficient consensus on the course to pursue, and sufficient common action to achieve it" (1967, p.62).

He notes that all these "… are collective processes, mediated by communication" (Ibid).

The betterment of communication processes and of techniques of co-participative design (FUSCHL Group) or Generic Design (J. WARFIELD) are thus generally paramount in order to obtain well- founded consensus in due time.

M. MARUYAMA contributes some curious psycho-sociological angles: "Consensus is an homogenist-type notion, which does not require disadvantage compensation" (1994, p.41). Homogenist mindscapes include as natural the disciplined acceptance of consensus. However MARUYAMA observes that this is not the case in all cultures, since some consider, on the contrary, that the person disadvantaged by consensus is entitled to an immediate compensation (in the Navajo-type decision process) or a delayed one (in Indonesian or Japanese culture).


  • 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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