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 generalization of explanations from several analytical studies in order to understand a complex phenomenon or process within a discipline" (1985., p.45).

L. TRONCALE sustains his definition explaining that systems theory "often leads to a model of the process with the purpose of achieving a subjective, qualitative understanding of the phenomenon that goes beyond the quantitative knowledge obtained from the specific cases… (and) emphasizies broader comparisons than systems analysis across different specific systems within a discipline or phenomenon; (it) uses some isomorphies, but many fewer than the full set; overall, systems theory is one step more abstracted than systems analysis in its use of mathematics".

The qualitative aspect in systems theory are indeed dominant, while quite more than subjective. Systems theory also evades of the limits of disciplines.

It however does not seem obvious that systems theory uses more mathematics and in a more abstract way than systems analysis, nor that this should be its unavoidable goal or necessity.

More generally, it seems that systems theory, if such an embracing thing already really exists, is taking shape through a slow interconnection and interaction of an array of concepts and models coming from very diverse disciplines.

Numerous examples could be given. Here are some:

- dissipative structuration: a concept coming from chemistry and thermodynamics, but useful in social ethology and in social sciences.

- deterministic chaos: a concept that originatedin celestial mechanics, astronomy and meteorology, but now allows for the interpretation of numerous phenomena in multiple disciplines.

- feedback: a practically universal model of regulated or controlled processes in any class of complex living entities and mechanical devices.

- autopoiesis: a nearly universal model of the way complex entities constantly reconstruct themselves and secure their autonomy and survival.

- networks: a more and more generalized model of interactive behavior between elements leading to global coherence.

(For a more complete list see numerous entries in this work).

It should however be strongly emphasized that systems theory is not merely an unorganized collection of more or less systemic theories coming from specialized disciplines. Such theories (as for instance, control theory) can usefully contribute to systems theory as a whole, but only if properly integrated in a global transdisciplinary perspective, i.e. correctly interconnected with each others.

This is even true of various very promising general theories recognized as typically systemic: HAKEN's Synergetics, SABELLI's Process theory, MILLER's Living systems, Mc NEIL's Systemology, LE MOIGNE's Théorie du Système Général, for instance.

Possibly, systems theory still lies in the future, if it becomes one day possible to establish a genuine integrating metatheory in systems research from the still presently growing set of general ising concepts and models.

Such a systems theory could instate a new level of metascience.


  • 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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