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.



An open set of concepts, models and practical tools useful for a better understanding and eventual management of complex situations or entities of any type.

It would seemingly be advisable to replace expressions like "Systems Research", "General Systems Theory", "General Theory of Systems", or "Systems Science(s)" by the word "Systemics". In this way many ambiguities, sterile controversies and in some cases, inflated claims could probably be laid to rest.

According to M. BUNGE: "Because of its generality it has a sizable overlap with ontology and metaphysics construed in the traditional pre-Hegelian sense, as well as in our own sense of scientific ontology. Both systems experts and ontologists are interested in the properties common to all systems irrespective of their particular constitution, and both are intrigued by the peculiarities of extremely general theories, which are methodologically quite different from specific theories" (1979, p.3).

Generally speaking, systemic models "have sought to restaure multidimensionality to our world views and modes of inquiry (M. DODDS and G. JAROS, 1994, p.9).

Furthermore, systemics, combined with cybernetics, has introduced new concepts and models of nonlinear complex processes, as for example catastrophes, deterministic chaos, dynamic stability, dissipative structuration, feedbacks, etc.

A more specific aim of systemics is stated by H. PRAEHOFER: "… an interdisciplinary discipline that tries to provide general concepts for model building and problem solving" (1991, p.290).

As noted by M. BUNGE: "Systemics has two related motivations, one cognitive and one practical" (quoted by M.C.LE DUC, 1992, p.916).

N. PEGUIRON observes:"Systemics appeared – one could say – progressively, as a reply to a new awareness of a varied mixture of discoveries:

- indeterminism in classical mechanics.

- the incapacity, in spite of an even deeper knowledge in the classical senses, to explain in pluricellular living beings, the phenotype, starting from the genotype.

- a great difficulty in modeling complex evolution in ecology, and also the discovery of the limited character of that ecosystem which sustains human activity.

"On the scientific level, systemics appeared as a result of some new disciplines, which it assembled in a study of those matters that science could not yet explain" (1989, p.6)

Among these new disciplines or theories, PEGUIRON cites:

- Thermodynamics of irreversible systems out of equilibrium.

- Catastrophe theory.

- The concepts of strange attractors and chaos.

- The theory of fractals.

We may add, among others:

- at least three different understandings of what is autonomy (BERNARD/CANNON/VENDRYES; ASHBY; MATURANA/VARELA)

- the concept of autopoiesis

- new ideas about cycles and cyclical behavior

- the cybernetics of feedback, regulation, control, variety and constraints

- the theory of the observer

- some consequences of relativity (simultaneity in different referentials).

This "toolbox" of conceptual models is becoming ever more useful for the study of all kinds of complex systems in neurology and brain studies, information and communication sciences, behavioral sciences, ecology, economy, social sciences, management, etc…

All of the listed notions are related, not to out-of-context phenomena but on the contrary to interconnected ones, generally within complex specific settings and constrained by not necessarily stable conditions. Accordingly, systemics abandons the "… et ceteris paribus" clause.

The global goal of systemics is thus defined by J.C. LUGAN: "(Systemics should) replace the disjunction-reduction paradigm by a distinction-conjunction one, which should allow distinction without disjunction and association without identification or reduction" (1993, p.113).

It should be stressed that systemics is not merely a systematics of ideas, as for example some philosophical "systems" of ideas. While CI. BERNARD said that "Systems are not in nature, but in men's heads", it should be understood that they reflect somehow reality. Here is the basic clivage between systemic understanding of behavior and structure of "something out there" or rigid and systematic models created once and for all by a self-limiting mind. There is nothing wrong with systematics, but it refers to taxonomics, classification and highly abstract constructs, quite disconnected from anything concrete.

On the contrary, systemics cannot be reduced to a more or less limited compendium of cognitive recipes and their products.

M.C.LE DUC is probably right saying that "… constructivism emphasises the process of working back and forth between our mental world and the concrete world". Consequently, he proposes the following axioms for systemics:

"1. There is a concrete world around us that is accessible to our mental world only by the mental structures already in the mental world.

"2. New mental structures are constructed from existing ones to enhance the fit between the mental world and the concrete world (PIAGET)

"3. Mental structures are organized into levels, some of which have emergent properties" (1992, p.917).

For interesting historical data and philosophical comments, see also R. RODRIGUEZ DELGADO (Chap.2 and 3) (1997)

"Structural differential".


  • 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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