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 hability to interrelate informations within more general embracing mental frames of reference.

Understanding leads to the creation of knowledge, which consists of systems of coordinated informations, which can be put to use in the following ways:

- obtain working interpretations of the significance of interconnected informations.

- discuss the validity of such interpretations.

- correct and expand already existing frames of reference.

- Use knowledge obtained in this way to seek workable alternatives on issues, to – further better design of projects and to make decisions based on well informed - choices.

There is a specific form of systemic understanding which corresponds to the use of frames of references allowing interpretations of nonlinear systems.

In relation to conversation and consensus and according to H.von FOERSTER we can only "construct our own understanding of the other's understanding" (1993, p.11 0)

We should thus have to rely on the other's agreement on what we express about our understanding of him/her… and reciprocally. This is indeed a shaky ground for reciprocal understanding and consensus… but it is the only one we have!

In a quite different vein, R. GLANVILLE also explores what we do mean by "understanding". He writes: "We are different: I can never have your understanding of your understanding, which is precisely not your understanding)" (2001, p. 145-46).

The meaning of "conversation" in Pask's sense is the reciprocal polishing of our respective understanding. Nobody can better understand anybody else without a conversation in which each one testifies how he/she understands the other's understanding.

The typical dialogue would be:

"-If I understand you well, you mean that…"

"-Well, more or less if interpreted in your terms. But what do you mean when you say that my opinion is that…?"

Of course that type of dialogue can easily become a hopeless semantic and mental circular labyrinth. This can be avoided only between good-willed people in search of sincere and useful reciprocal communication through progressive mutual spiraling adjustment.

It is however a very good cure to intolerance, fanaticism and even simple stupidity

In a still more subtle way, understanding refers to the general implicit meaning of what we are perceiving and cannot (or cannot yet), or do not want to express as knowledge in a specific language.

In KRISHNAMURTI's words: " In the interval between words, between thoughts, comes understanding and… this interval is silence unbroken by knowledge"


  • 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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