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.


COUPLING (Structural) 1)3)

The recurrent and typical interactions between a biological system and its enviroment.

Structural coupling may imply two different types of relationships. F. CAPRA explains this in the following way: "Kicking a stone and kicking a dog are two different stories, as G. BATESON was fond of pointing out. The stone will react to the kick according to a linear chain of cause and effect. Its behavior can be calculated by applying the basic laws of Newtonian mechanics. The dog will respond with structural changes according to its own nature and (nonlinear) pattern of organization. The resulting behavior is generally unpredictable"(1997, p. 219)

This means that the dog may growl, bite, moan, crouch, or run.

This possibility of various alternative behaviors, present both in dog and man introduces the possibility of different chains of events in the ongoing interactions between both… in an ongoing process. Among human beings this opens the way for example to "conversation" in Pask's sense.

Accordingly, in the autopoiesis theory of the observer, the relation of the organism with its environment is seen as an endless sequence of experiences made by the organism, not in terms of stimuli from an objective external reality registered merely in a passive way, but as a kind of reactive internal reorganization within the limits of already existing structures. Whatever these may be in terms of brain histology and/or neuronal connections, it is clear that each individual constructs his/her own frames of references, from his/her birth on (be it the technique of bicycling, or the rules of a language).

As a result of this structural coupling, these internal frames of references are internally reorganized, but still as self reproducing structures.

Structural coupling is specially significant in conversation between observing systems.

In MATURANA and VARELA's terms (as quoted by S. BRIER – 1995, p.7): "In the coupling, the autopoietic conduct of an organism A becomes a source of deformation for an organism B, and the compensatory behavior of organism B, in turn, as a source of deformation for organism A, whose compensating behavior acts again as a source of deformation of B, and so on recursively until the coupling is interrupted".

Structural coupling is now incorporated in systemic familiar therapy. It could even possibly be applied to economic and social systems. Even binary stars systems are structurally coupled!

Constructivism; Eigen behavior; Eigen values; "Reality"(Riddle of); Recursivity; Structural coupling


  • 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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