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.


"REALITY" (Riddle of) 3)

B. GAINES considered this riddle in a 1984 paper, in which he considered the problem of modeling "reality" (the unique way we have to learn something about it): "… the most outstanding characteristic of human kind is that we all are, and always will be, modellers" (1991, p.356).

Our problem is thus to try to evaluate our "Groping in the dark" (MEADOWS, D., et all – 1982).

GAINES finds and discuss three basic modeling attitudes (1977, p.358-65):

"- ZERO: There is no method of reality;…

"- ONE: There is one correct method of reality;…

"- MANY: There is an indefinite variety of methods of reality"

The first attitude corresponds to radical skepticism; the second one to any exclusive modeling methodology; and the third one, to a kind of positive experimental scepticism.

E. SCHWARZ writes: "We were led to the idea that "reality" cannot be reduced to the physical world, but that it has two equally "real" aspects: the usual physical world of objects, where energy is the pertinent parameter, and the logical world of relations, where information is the relevant parameter" (1992, p. 773).

In accordance with this view, what we call reality is a combination of energy and information. (itself merely modulated energy) for the human observer, able to construct such a model.

It could be added that "reality" has obviously different meanings in different cultures: see for example "La Pensée Sauvage" by Cl. LEVISTRAUSS.

This matter is very much relevant for systemics, because is becomes a firm foundation for the concept of models, which merely aim at representing reality.

N. LUHMANN's view, as interpreted by O. THYSSEN (1995), p. 15) is that: "Reality "is only real in so far as it is observed reality, and no system has access to any "real reality ". WITIGENSTEIN made the same point in a different way. A good example is the sight of stars at night. It is the human observer which creates a "celestial show" out of a complex set of luminous sensations resulting from light emissions from thousands of stars, completely heterogeneous in the space-time dimension.

In this example, it should be noted that:

1- the picture of "reality" is always slightly different for two or more observers

2- no reconstruction of "real reality" would ever be possible because it is absolutely fleeting as time is "running on"

Ontological skepticism


  • 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: