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.



"The general principles of constructing knowledge concerning the system objects"… or "a theory of systems theories" (I.V. BLAUBERG et al, 1977, p.195).

P. CAWS wrote: "Systems theory is a way of looking at systems, but theories themselves are also systems. They are composite wholes whose parts are propositions, related to one another in complex and dynamic ways…

"The chief function of theories,… is to anticipate the behavior of physical systems. If in theory the device blows up, in practice it had better not be built that way" (1968, p.3).

A theory aims at being isomorphic in some respect with some concrete systems. It can work if: "… its function is to be adecuate to the world."

However : "Questions about the adequacy of scientific theories, like questions about their logical structure, their origins, their usefulness, etc., are metascientific questions; and a number of metascientific disciplines – the philosophy of science, the history of science, the sociology of science – have grown to deal with them. These disciplines, however, are not simply descriptive, they are theoretical to, or better meta theoretical – ways of looking at scientific theory, or ways of looking at ways of looking at things" (p.4).

In this way, the concept of an entity functioning as a whole appeared in various disciplines and we have thus an interpretation of the cell as a system, of the brain, of the individual, of the business entre prise, or a culture in the anthropological sense as systems. In each case the corresponding systemic theory seeks and finds some specific isomorphies between the constructed model and the concrete system.

But we may advance further: isomorphies can be discovered between models constructed in different disciplines. Systems of different kind tend to be, each in their way and at their level, autopoietic, heterogeneous, hierarchic, etc… It is thus possible to construct a general systemic model of any of these characteristics and to study its necessary organization. Why, for example, must all systems be heterogeneous? What has heterogeneity to see with wholeness? Etc…

Or to go back to CAWS and to BLAUBERG, SADOVSKY and YUDIN, we may be able to construct a theory of systems theory, principally by studying the isomorphies between models and their deeper reasons.

The conclusions thus reached at can then be applied very generally to any object amenable to a systemic model.

It is still possible to go farther and to try understand how and why our brain is able to construct this type of general modelization and how and why we are able to reach consensus about this process.


  • 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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