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.



In general

J.van GIGCH enumerates many different aspects of the systems approach, which "can be regarded as:

"A methodology of design

A common conceptual framework

A new kind of scientific method

A theory of organizations

Systems management

A method related to systems engineering, operations research, cost effectiveness, etc…

Applied General Systems Theory" (1978, p.34)

van GIGCH completes his overview establishing a taxonomy of sciences and systems, divided into "hard" and "soft" systems in physical, life, behavioral and social sciences (p.39).

Logical aspects

BLAUBERG, SADOVSKYand YUDIN consider that, from the logical viewpoint, "the development of systems research presupposes:

a) The construction of formal logical systems describing the process of reasoning as applied to certain aspects of the systems approach or special systems theories (e.g. the logic of relations, bio-Iogics, the logic of reflexive reasoning, etc…)

b) The formulation of the logical apparatus of the general systems theory

c) The metamathematical and metalogical analysis of systems formalisms" (1977, p.125).

Methodological aspects

According to the same authors, the methodological aspects of the systems approach "cover the following tasks:

"a) The explication (including the formal explication) of the basic concepts of the systemic approach, such as system, element, connection, structure, wholeness, part-whole relation, etc…

"b) The classification of systems, including the discussion and comparison of the various approaches to this problem

"c) The identification and analysis of the specific methods of systems research – the systemic (integral) representation of a system object, the investigation of a system together with its environment, the isomorphy of systems concepts and laws, systems analysis and synthesis, etc…

"d) The methods for constructing the theoretical knowledge of systems – both in the case of special systems concepts and in formulating a general systems theory (1977, p.125).

J. SUTHERLAND, from another viewpoint on methodology, proposed what he called the syncretic approach, "… to insure that the systems models we use comprehend to the fullest extent possible both qualitative and quantitative constructs" (Quoted from J.D. WHITE, 1977, p.68).

As to the basic nature and limits of the systemic approach, J.C. LUGAN writes: "The systemic approach consists in isolating a number of elements n, emphasizing certain types of relations that would give a degree of autonomy to the system in relation to a more extensive set N of elements.

"This global character of systemic modelization should not be understood as aiming at exhaustivity. To begin with only those properties considered as essential from the modelizer's viewpoint are taken in account. The model can be enriched… (but will never be complete). In other words, systemic modelization should tend to be an evolutive process, conscious of its limits between a kind of exhaustive perfectionism and an excessively reducing simplification" (1993, p.24).

Psycho-sociological aspects

E. HERRSCHER writes: "The point can be made that the systems approach comprises both rational and non-rational elements. Particularly since soft systems thinking took the lead from the hard system approach, many social, political and psychological issues became more relevant, weakening the rational part of the rational/non-rational mix or, at least introducing (in the words of C. FRANÇOIS) a psychical and sociological rationality, complementary to the hard systems approach. Few social scientists would object, but some quantitative or closed-model-oriented scientists might" (1995).

The systemic psycho-sociological rationality aspects are of different kinds:

1) The systemic inner and relational workings of societies; autopoiesis, conflict, hierarchies, interactions with the environment; networks, processes, side effects, stigmergy, subsystems, etc…

2) The ways these inner social workings translate into attitudes, situations and issues: values, norms, ideologies, prejudices, power relations, etc…

3) The ways the modelizer understand (or not) his/her observer role and choices when modeling some social system, and perhaps his/her relationship with members of the latter, who required the intervention.


  • 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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