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.



1. "Any explicit move to obtain some quantitative knowledge of a system, or part or process of a system" (J.L. DESTOUCHES, 1990, p.479).

2."The assignment of numerals (and numbers) to represent properties" (N.R. CAMPBELL, 1957, p.267).

(According to CAMPBELL, a numeral is a material or quasi-material symbol, while a number is a mathematical concept. While numbers can be added or multiplied, numerals cannot be).

Measurements can be obtained using some instrument or device, but also by organizing a statistical inquiry or even using a more approximative way of evaluation.

J.L. DESTOUCHES states: "Any measurement is imprecise. It implies the interaction during a certain time of the studied system and another specific one, the measurement device (endowed with some observable characteristic, which will have changed after the measurement). Thus, any measurement implies a whole process with complex transmission devices of the obtained information and for showing the results. This introduces limitations to the knowledge of the system. One may conceive that some measurements cannot be made simultaneously because both measurement instruments cannot be used at the same moment, as it is for example, the case in quantical physics".

"While any positive knowledge about a system must be obtained by measurement, any measurement presuppose a theoretical concept, or at least a model. This is a dialectical situation. The model includes constants, parameters, variables, and relations between these quantities. Measurements are to be of these quantities: if the model is adequate and reliable, the quantities correspond to properties of the concrete system…

"A measurement is a concrete action, which is not at the same level as the model, but at the level of the system, while on the contrary its interpretation is at the level of the model" (p.430).

DESTOUCHES adds: "… the word 'measurement' must be understood in a broad meaning, it denotes any manipulation and any explicitely formulated method designed in order to provide a positive empirical or experimental knowledge about the studied system… using as well an apparatus, a device, like a questionary, an inquest or a measure of samples, any process explicitely formulated, giving a knowledge, i.e. a result about the system" (1980, p.197).

D. GERNERT refined still more these views, insisting that: "A scientist decides what to measure (or to observe) and how to do it (decision phase)". The results must finally be interpreted by this initiator, who in most cases depends on devices and intermediaries (1994).


  • 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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