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 basic rules which govern the individual and collective behavior of the members of a human system.

According to the "Glossary of environmental education terms" of UNESCO – UNEP: Values are "formed by groups of attitudes which cluster. Values produce behavior as contrasted to attitudes which represent a behavioral disposition potential or tendency. Values are individual or collective conceptions (based on) emotional, judgmental and symbolic components of that which is of worth, important, or desirable" (UNE Glossary, 1983, p.29).

This formulation is somewhat objectionable: in effect, values are proper to groups of people whose attitudes become clustered, i.e., values are abstractions if not translated into behavior.

For N. RESCHER, values are instrumentalities for reasoning about alternatives (Quoted by K. SAYRE, 1976, p.185). SAYRE adds: "What makes values important principles of social cohesion is that they contribute so effectively to the formation of personal habits. The emphasis upon reasoning is understandable, however, in that values also play an important role in the public justification of problematic courses of action and the values supporting it must be understood commonly by all parties involved" (Ibid).

A. LASZLO explains the mechanism of values action on individuals and groups in the following way:."… cognitive maps must involve values. Values are symbols that serve to record phenomena and that catalyze reactions to them. On an individual level, cognitive maps are conditioned by the values and beliefs that are dominant in society at the time. By internalizing values derived from cultural contexts, individual maps incorporate a certain amount of developmental leeway. Values encourage repeating behavioral sequences, forming stereotypes, and performing rituals. Much of the information in these media, information on which individual maps depend, is transferred from others. Thus human mental maps can be constructed without direct experience. The nature of these learning processes contributes to making our cognitive maps socially constructed realities.

"Within a given culture, values and beliefs are relatively coherent. As a result, it is possible to talk about a collective or societal cognitive map of the environment (Social, cultural, as well as natural). It describes the dominant world-view in a given culture at a given time" (1993, p.318).

Values are the basic references for regulations in any fundamental aspects of human systems. They are the sources of norms and standards.

G. VICKERS states: "The problems of the traffic regulator are set by the standard of congestion, which is regarded as unacceptable. Without such a standard there would be no problem and nothing to regulate" (1967, p.60).

Of course, this would mean radical anarchy and could make life downright impossible for many people.

Thus : "All regulation depends on setting standards by a process of human valuation" (Ibid).

Such a process can be succesful only through open or tacit consensus by a clear majority of the interested people. Any authoritarily imposed standard brings some kind of stress in the social fabric.

Consensus, in part, is in turn based of more general and permanent cultural values. For this reason, we should pay much attention to the following comment by VICKERS: "We now seem to be approaching a point at which the changes generated within a single generation may render inept for the future the skills, the institutions and the ideas which form that generation 's main legacy to posterity and the next generation's principal heritage" (Ibid, p.61).

This is a very serious problem, because values are necessarily transmitted from generation to generation through education and training.

In other words, our traditional social regulators are at great risk… as well as ourselves, as a result.

This becomes still clearer when, as stated by F. PARRA LUNA: "… the ideal system of values… (is) defined by those in command" (1993, p.423).

Formerly, values stability was guaranteed by the autopoietic way those "in command" received their values through traditional education. Their leeway for interpretations was very limited. But this is not anymore the case…


  • 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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