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.



A reformulation of so-called system sciences, proposed by D. Mc NEIL.

The term was initially proposed by R.L. ACKOFF in 1973: "As the problem complexes with which we concern ourselves increase in complexity, the need for bringing the interdisciplines together increases. What we need may be called metadisciplines, and what they are needed for may be called systemology" (1991, p.33).

The basic tenet of Mc NEIL's proposal is that all systems are basically toroids, i.e. complex structured torus. This is consistent with C. LAVILLE's general concept of energy vortexes (1950).

According to Mc NEIL ".. no system – properly so-called – can be represented by any less a figure than a three dimensional, homeokinetic torus within a flux of throughput… At a given echelon of order, a system is a dynamic, organized, delimited, open, persistent, composite whole. It is volutionary, comprising at least one loop and at least one link which manifest the aspects of content, form, function and control, together with timing and scaling factors, relative to an environment and relevant to a percipient" ("Percipient" can be viewed as a synonym for "observer", with possibly a shade of GIBSON's way to understand perception).

He adds: "The paradigm, illustrated as above, offers an organized, constitutive core of systemological concepts accessible "by inspection". Having placed the visualization of a systemological paradigm into a toroidal context, one can proceed to explicate related concepts such as boundaries, interfaces, stability, succession, trajectories, chirality, polarity, potential, reciprocity, complementarity, etc … At the same time, a frame of reference is established for systemic principles such as conservation, equipotency, requisite variety, parsimony, and mutuality… Throughout all of this, the percipient remains pivotal because there is no system – properly construed – except as it is defined relevant to purposes. By attending to the toroidal whole, this systemological paradigm accomodates the "real" world which is assured to exist regardless of what any percipient may think as well as the "imaginary" world out of which come the thoughts wich define and alter reality".

And "Clearly, a systemological paradigm turns many a conventional worldview insideout. To adopt and assimilate it is to re-cognize the world from the linear, the convex, the closed, the cropped, and the particulate… into the cyclical, the hyperbolic, the open, continuous and vorticulate" (1993).

Mc NEIL's basic paper is profusely illustrated, which make the understanding of all these statements very clear and easy.


  • 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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