Any constructed device that can contribute to the operation of a machine.
To be reliable, a mechanism needs to present a foreseable behavior. This supposes that it should be in principle entirely deterministic. This is for instance implied in classical celestial mechanics, as well as in the operation of any constructed appliance.
However, real mechanical devices are in the habit of breaking down because it is impossible in practice to endow them with rigorous determinism in front of unavoidable imperfections of their elements and unforeseable variations in the conditions of their operation. This is also the case of purely mechanistic models, of which the theory of deterministic chaos shows the somewhat narrow limitations.
Mechanisms – either models of machines – are constructed by people, i.e. not self-constructed.
Even when quite complex, a mechanism can never be completely autonomous. It must be maintained and repaired by human experts. It is not autopoietic, i.e. it cannot reproduce its own elements, nor organize them in a self-referent network. The gap between machines and natural systems seems however to be narrowing (G.M. WHITESIDES, 1995, p.114-18), and foresaid may become less true in the future.
"Mechanism" is also frequently used in an analogic or metaphoric sense: the "mechanisms of economy", the "mechanisms of mind", etc… This is objectionable, because it introduces a conceptual bias into research and models.
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
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]
We thank the following partners for making the open access of this volume possible: