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.


THERMODYNAMICS (Second Law of) 5)

"If a physical system is isolated from its environment, than the amount of entropy in the system can only increase toward a maximum (never decrease)" (A. RAPOPORT, 1966, p.6).

RAPOPORT adds: "Statistically this means that isolated systems tend to drift from less probable configurations to more probable ones, or, which is the same thing, from more "organized" to more "chaotic" ones" (Ibid). (Nowadays, RAPOPORT should probably write "disordered" instead of "chaotic", since this last term acquired a different meaning.

As stated by RAPOPORT, the system is here simply a portion of the physical universe, being well understood that it is isolated, i. e. not receiving inputs of any kind from – nor emitting any outputs toward its environment. This is obviously a perfectly theoretical case, of which only a perfectly abstract model can be constructed.

If this point is not duly understood, numerous apparent contradictions arise, particularly in relation to living and social systems, which, of course are open systems, able to maintain and even to increase their internal organization thanks to organized matter, energy and information inputs from their environment and to the possibility to export entropy toward that same environment.

Even if both situations are a consequence of the 2d Law, there is a clear-cut opposition between the abstract concept of entropic degradation of order in isolated systems and the more realistic model of self-organization through a higher production of entropy in open systems, particularly living ones. H. and L. SABELLI emphasize both aspects and use the greek word "enantiodromy" to characterize their complementarity (1994). SABELLI even redefines the 2nd Law as "the flow of all processes towards symmetry, including as such not only the uniformity of entropy, but also the creation of complex attractors and structures".

I. PRIGOGINE considers that "The second law… provides us with a universal law of macroscopic evolution, since the quantity of entropy appertaining to the system and its environment can only increase in the course of time" (1978, p.11) He has however discovered and discussed the thermodynamic conditions applicable to irreversible systems, for which the 2nd law remains in check, at least for a time.


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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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