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 study of signs and symbols and the way they program behavior" (J.Z. YOUNG, 1974, p.298).

Semiotics was introduced by C.S. PEIRCE, who defined it as "the necessary laws of signs".

YOUNG adds that signs can be "… transmitted as language or by gesture, smell, touch, or in any other way" (Ibid).

Ph. GUDDEMI explains PEIRCE semiotics as follows: "In semeiotics (sic), something can serve as a sign of something else by being an icon, an index or a symbol…An icon serves as a sign by resemblance to something else, like a portrait to the person portraited. An index serves as a sign by pointing to other things, which are associated with it in a potential "causal" manner, like a cloud to possible or actual rain (The use of causality is meant mainly as illustration, since the philosophy of causality is itself full of a number of vexing issues and semeiotics should not be held hostage to it). And a symbol is an agreement that something will stay for something else, independently of any iconic or indexical relationship the one has to the other; words in human language are the most typical examplar of the symbol"(2000, p. 134)

(Let us remember the ironic MAGRITTE's painting titled "This is not a pipe", precisely representing a pipe).

Guddemi's paper also explains very clearly other Peirce's terms, among them: firstness, secondness, thirdness and interpretant. He relates Peirce's phenomenology of experience to MATURANA and VARELA's structural coupling.

Note: For various important papers about Peirce, see KAUFFMAN, L.H. and BRIER, S. (2001)

D. GERNERT offers the following synthesis of the role of Charles W. MORRIS in the history of semiotics: "Starting mainly from some specific parts in the extensive work of Charles S. PEIRCE (1839-1914), the American philosopher Charles William MORRIS (1901-1979) was the first to formulate semiotics, the theory of signs, as an explicit and elaborated concept (1938). In modern terms semiotics can be defined as the scientific theory of the characterization, utilization and efficiency of signs

"MORRIS gave the following subdivision, which has become influential since the early days of analytical philosophy. Semiotics consists of:

- syntactics: the theory of relations between the signs

- semantics: the theory of the relations between the signs and the objects symbolized by them (designata)

- pragmatics: the theory of the relations between the signs and their users

"Furthermore, MORRIS made a distinction between general (or pure) semiotics as a neutral and fundamental theory, and descriptive semi otics- the latter term denotes the utilization of the theory to "concrete instances of signs", or, in other words, to a specific field of application" (2000, p. 155)

GERNERT observes that "descriptive semiotics covers a great variety of fields like linguistic semiotics, medical semiotics, architectural, musical, theatre and film semiotics, zoo semiotics, and phytosemiotics "(Ibid)

This is the bridge between syntactics and semantics


  • 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: