I. BLAUBERG, V. SADOVSKY and E. YUDIN describe the basic features of a system as a whole in the following way:
"1) The system is an integral complex of interconnected elements;
"2) it forms a special unity with the environment (in some problems the system cannot be considered in isolation from the environment, although this does not mean that all… problems of system and structural research are of this nature);
"3) usually any investigated system is an element of a higher-order system (that is, it may, in other problems, appear as a subsystem or element of a broader system);
"4) elements of any investigated system in their turn usually appear (again in special problems) as systems of a lower order" (1977, p.127).
The authors emphasize that "one must pay special attention to the hierarchical character of the system intimately connected with its wholeness. The hierarchy is manifested both in the chain of systems' inclusions into one another and in the interaction of individual subsystems, including the character of the functioning of goal-directed subsystems and their impact upon the system concerned" (Ibid, p.127)
Thus the wholeness of the system implies the existence of hierarchical as well as nonhierarchical links.
Another aspect of wholeness is that "a variation of any element affects all other elements of the system and brings about a variation in the whole system, and vice-versa, variations of any element depend upon all other elements of the system" (Ibid, p.54).
The concept "expresses the requeriment for a special description of the system as a whole, different of that of its elements (non-additivity of the system as the sum of its elements) and also the intention to oppose the system to its surroundings (the environment), the system 's inner activity forming the base of the opposition" (Ibid, p.140).
J.A. GOGUEN and F.J. VARELA add some other interesting viewpoints about wholeness: "… it co-occurs with interesting emergent properties at some level. A sequence of notes is whole if it is an interesting melody. Similarly, the significant differences in behavior of cells and organisms from the behavior of atoms and molecules, marks the cells and organisms as whole systems".
"Another point of view toward wholeness, is that it can be measured by the difficulty of reduction: Because it is very hard to reduce the behavior of organisms to the behaviors of molecules, we may say that organisms are whole systems".
"A third point of view is that a system is whole to the extent that its parts are tightly interconnected, that is, to the degree that it is difficult to find a relatively independent subsystem".
"A fourth point of view is that a system seems more whole if it is more complex, that is more difficult to reduce to descriptions as interconnections of lower level components" (1979, p.41).
E. SCHWARZ observes that the need for making distinctions, which cannot be avoided, has on the other hand the negative effect, in classical scientific thought, to cut and even make disappear from our view, numerous significant interrelations among the elements and among the forces that dynamizes the processes (1999, p. 138-9)
This trend obviously started with DESCARTES "Discours de la Méthode"(1637)
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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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