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.


OBJECT 1)2)3)

1) A physical and observable entity endowed (by the observer!) with specifiable morphological and functional properties.

2) "A set of forces, with finite values, coordinated by a regulation system, in such a way as to produce stable and observable qualities, when left to itself in its natural surroundings" (C.P. BRUTER, 1973, p.33).

According to J.J. GIBSON we distinguish between objects as they lend us, or not some specific capabilities of action (affordances) (1986, p.133).

H.von FOERSTER sustains that "objects are representations of relations", an opinion that he even extends to "events" (1982, p.265).

Thus, the notion of object hovers at the confines of reality and subjectivity (individual or collective).

According to the given definitions, the object is not very different from the system (in its most general sense).

J.L.LE MOIGNE resumes as follows some of C.P. BRUTER's comments: "Within the fields of forces that occupy the environment (surroundings), the instantaneous equilibrium of these forces which create the observable object results from and is maintained by the object itself, which escapes somehow from its "parents" and develops its own identifiable project of existence" (1990a, p.151).

This concept is very close to LAVILLE's (1950), who however expresses it in a less tautological manner. LAVILLE shows moreover how "antagonistic fields of forces" give rise to the forms of the "objects".

This is also perceived by G. KLIR who states: "… the object, which is the subject of our interest, is never completely isolated from its environment" (1965, p.31).

J.von UEXKÜLL gave this lapidary definition, which confirms however that any object is an observed one: "An object is what moves together" (Quoted by K. LORENZ, 1962, p.47). We should maybe correct this statement as follows: "An object is what we perceive as moving together". In A.L. GOUDSMIT words it is the result of: "multiple recursive coordinated actions. We will, thus, regard objects as elements of consensual domains in that they consist of intricately stabilized patterns of interactions" (1989, p.175).

G.P. SHCHEDROVITZKY distinguishes however between the "object and the "thing known", in these terms: "The object exists independently of knowledge. The thing known, on the contrary, is formulated by knowledge itself" (1966, p.32). There is a danger of semantic confusion: We should better consider the "object" as the result of our observation of "that thing there outside" (As proposed by A. KORZYBSKI – 1933 – 1950).

In the art photographer W. BULLOCK words (quoted by E. JANTSCH, 1975, p.90): "An object is actually a visual or mental concept. It has no independent physical existence. Only events exist". This view is very close to KORZYBSKI's ones.

H.von FOERSTER made the same point in his paper "Objects: Tokens for Eigen behaviors "(1976)

"Organization,(the nine levels of)" (of objects or systems).


  • 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).

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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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