- Excerpted from
- General Systems Theory
- "Modern science is characterized by its
ever-increasing specialization, necessitated by the enormous amount
of data, the complexity of techniques and of theoretical structures
within every field. Thus science is split into innumerable disciplines
continually generating new subdisciplines. In consequence, the physicist,
the biologist, the psychologist and the social scientist are, so to
speak, encapusulated in their private universes, and it is difficult
to get word from one cocoon to the other..."
- "Entities of an essentially new sort are entering the sphere
of scientific thought. Classical science in its diverse disciplines,
be it chemistry, biology, psychology or the social sciences, tried
to isolate the elements of the observed universe - chemical compounds
and enzymes, cells, elementary sensations, freely competing individuals,
what not -- expecting that, by putting them together again, conceptually
or experimentally, the whole or system - cell, mind, society - would
result and be intelligible. Now we have learned that for an understanding
not only the elements but their interrelations as well are required..."
- "It is necessary to study not only parts and processes in isolation,
but also to solve the decisive problems found in organization and
order unifying them, resulting from dynamic interaction of parts,
and making the the behavoir of the parts different when studied in
isolation or within the whole..."
- General system theory, therefore, is a general science of "wholeness...The
meaning of the somewhat mystical expression, "The whole is more that
the sum of its parts" is simply that constitutive characteristics
are not explanable from the characteristics of the isolated parts.
The characteristics of the complex, therefore, appear as "new" or
- We can also say: While we can conceive of a sum being composed
gradually, as system as total of parts with its interrelations has
to be conceived of as being composed instantly..."
- "In our considerations we started with a general definition
of "systems" defined as a "set of elements standing in interrelations...
No special hypothesis or statement were made about the nature of the
system, of its elements or the relations between them. Nevertheless
from this purely formal definition of "system" many properties follow
which in part are expressed in laws well-known in various fields of
science, and in part concern concepts previously regarded as anthropomorphic,
vitalistic. or metaphysical. The parallelism of general conceptions
or even special laws in different fields therefore is a consequence
of the fact that those are concerned with "systems" and that certain
general principles apply to systems irrespective of their nature...
- There appear to exist general system laws which apply to any
system of a particular type, irrespective of the particular properties
of the systems and the elements involved.
- Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with
resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality
as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables
requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization,
- "These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific
discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter
is formulation of principles that are valid for "systems" in general,
whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or
"forces" between them..."
- "It seems, therefore, that a general theory of systems would
be a useful tool and providing on the one hand, models that can be
used in, and transferred to, different fields, and safeguarding, on
the other hand, from vague analogies which often have marred the progress
in these fields."
- Perspectives of General Systems Theory by Ludwig von
- From the Foreward
by Ervin Laszlo
- "Thus when von Bertalanffy spoke of Allgemeine Systemtheorie
it was consistent with his view that he was proposing a new perspective,
a new way of doing science. It was not directly consistent with an
interpretation often put on "general system theory," to wit, that
it is a (scientific) "theory of general systems." To criticize it
as such is to shoot at straw men. Von Bertalanffy opened up something
much broader and of much greater significance than a single theory
(which, as we now know, can always be falsified and has usually an
ephemeral existence): he created a new paradigm for the development
- See Also
- WELTANSCHAUUNG 2001