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.


RULE 1)2)

"A set of constraints which are local, arbitrary, structure-dependent, and associated with rate-independent aspects of control" (T.F.H. ALLEN & T.B. STARR, 1982, p.276).

A fine example are the rules of chess.

H. PATTEE (quoted by ALLEN & STARR, p.42) writes: "The basic distinction between laws (Note: i.e. so-called "Laws of nature") and rules can be made by these criteria: laws are a) inexorable, b) incorporeal, and c) universal; rules are a) arbitrary, b) structure dependent, c) local. In other words, we can never alter or evade laws of nature, we can always evade and change rules. Laws of nature do not need embodiments of structure to execute them; rules must have a real physical structure or constraint if they are to be executed" (PATTEE,. 1978). In this sense, legal codes are in fact systems of rules.

PATTEE's concept of laws is quite platonician: we can discover them only by seeking common features to a number of rules relatives to "real physical structures or constraints" proper to concrete systems.

One could say either that the laws are immanent in systems, or results from their pre-organized "reading" by the observer. In this way K. KRIPPENDORFF states: "The search for rules rather than laws distinguishes two schools in communication research, the cybernetics of observing systems from the cybernetics of observed systems and perhaps the social sciences from the natural sciences" (1986, p.67).

J. CASTI, possibly wandering on the border between laws and rules, writes: "Scientific rules are objective in that they are relatively free of investigator bias… For example, the exponent in NEWTON's inverse square law of gravitation is 2 and not 2,315 of 17 or any other number besides 2… In short, the rule is observer-invariant" (1994. p.13). While this is somehow contradictory with the definition and PATTEE's opinion, it softens somewhat ontological skepticism and is a counter-weight to a tendency to solipsism that seems sometimes to threaten autopoietic approaches.

Rules are generative, i.e. they constrain the set of possible combinations of elements in a specific way.

Rules are either introduced through a program, or indirectly constructed in an automatic way.


  • 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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