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.


METHOD (Systemic) 2)3)

J.L.LE MOIGNE, after a sharp critique of the famous Cartesian four principles (see Method (discourse on the) enounces in a somewhat jocular way his own four precepts for a "new discourse on the method", in this case, the systemic method:

"The precept of relevance: Acknowledge the fact that any object that we consider is defined in accordance to the explicit or implicit intentions of the model builder. Never refrain to doubt our definition if our perception of the object becomes modified in relation to a modification of our intention.

"The precept of globalism: Always consider the object whose knowledge we seek as an inmerged part, active within a greater whole. Perceive it first globally, in its functional relation with its environment, without bothering too much to establish an accurate image of its internal structure, whose existence and uniqueness should never be taken for granted.

"The teleological precept: Interpret the object, not in itself, but better by its behavior, without seeking an a priori explanation of such behavior by some law supposedly implied in some structure. Conversely, try to understand this behavior and the resources that it puts to use in relation to the "project" that the model builder adscribes to the object. Take the identification of these hypothetised projects as a rational intellectual act, admitting that their demonstration shall very seldom be possible.

"The principle of aggregation: Acknowledge that any representation is a simplification, not by some omission of the model builder but in a deliberate way. Consequently, seek some recipes to guide the selection of aggregates to be considered as relevant, and exclude the illusory objectivity of an exhaustive census of the elements to be taken into account" (1990, p.23).

These "precepts" are, of course, quite at variance with those of traditional reductionism, which count with a long history of successful results in many specific specialized fields. They do not replace ordinary scientific method, but complement it for the modeling of complex systems taken as wholes.

Apparently, what LE MOIGNE calls "method" – probably in traditional reference to DESCARTES – is called "methodology" by other authors, for whom a methodology is a set of methods of various types (see next heading).

G. KLIR, for instance, writes: "It is the most fundamental comitment of systems methodology to develop methods for solving genuine systems problems in their natural formulation. Simplifying assumptions, if unavoidable, are introduced carefully, for the purpose of making the problem manageable and, yet, distort it as little as possible. The methodological tools for dealing with a problem is of secondary importance; they are chosen in such a way as to best fit the problem, rather than the other way around. Moreover, the tools need not be only mathematical in nature. They may consist of a combination of mathematical, computational, heuristic, experimental, or any other desirable methodological traits" (1993, p.39).

In any case, systemic method, (or methodology?) properly, is not referred to a specific trade. It is based on the search for coherent wholes clearly distinguished from each other and from their general surroundings. The characteristic methods to study these systems would be the use of structural and functional isomorphisms with the help of specific systemic and cybernetic concepts as for example autopoiesis, regulation, structural dissipation, etc.


  • 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]

We thank the following partners for making the open access of this volume possible: