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object:Ludwig von Bertalanffy
class:author
subject class:Biology
subject class:Cybernetics


Influences:Rudolf Carnap, Gustav Theodor Fechner
Influences:Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rudolf Carnap, Gustav Theodor Fechner, Nicolai Hartmann, Otto Neurath, Moritz Schlick

Influenced: Russell L. Ackoff, Kenneth E. Boulding, Peter Checkland, C. West Churchman, Jay Wright Forrester, Ervin Lszl, James Grier Miller, Anatol Rapoport


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--- PUBLICATIONS
  928, Kritische Theorie der Formbildung, Borntraeger. In English: Modern Theories of Development: An Introduction to Theoretical Biology, Oxford University Press, New York: Harper, 1933
  1928, Nikolaus von Kues, G. Mller, Mnchen 1928.
  1930, Lebenswissenschaft und Bildung, Stenger, Erfurt 1930
  1937, Das Gefge des Lebens, Leipzig: Teubner.
  1940, Vom Molekl zur Organismenwelt, Potsdam: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Athenaion.
  1949, Das biologische Weltbild, Bern: Europische Rundschau. In English: Problems of Life: An Evaluation of Modern Biological and Scientific Thought, New York: Harper, 1952.
  1953, Biophysik des Fliessgleichgewichts, Braunschweig: Vieweg. 2nd rev. ed. by W. Beier and R. Laue, East Berlin: Akademischer Verlag, 1977
  1953, "Die Evolution der Organismen", in Schpfungsglaube und Evolutionstheorie, Stuttgart: Alfred Krner Verlag, pp 5366
  1955, "An Essay on the Relativity of Categories." Philosophy of Science, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 243263.
  1959, Stammesgeschichte, Umwelt und Menschenbild, Schriften zur wissenschaftlichen Weltorientierung Vol 5. Berlin: Lttke
  1962, Modern Theories of Development, New York: Harper
  1967, Robots, Men and Minds: Psychology in the Modern World, New York: George Braziller, 1969 hardcover: ISBN 0-8076-0428-3, paperback: ISBN 0-8076-0530-1
  1968, General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, New York: George Braziller, revised edition 1976: ISBN 0-8076-0453-4
  1968, The Organismic Psychology and Systems Theory, Heinz Werner lectures, Worcester: Clark University Press.
  1975, Perspectives on General Systems Theory. Scientific-Philosophical Studies, E. Taschdjian (eds.), New York: George Braziller, ISBN 0-8076-0797-5
  1981, A Systems View of Man: Collected Essays, editor Paul A. LaViolette, Boulder: Westview Press, ISBN 0-86531-094-7

The first articles from Bertalanffy on general systems theory:

  1945, "Zu einer allgemeinen Systemlehre", Bltter fr deutsche Philosophie, 3/4. (Extract in: Biologia Generalis, 19 (1949), 139-164).
  1950, "An Outline of General System Theory", British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 1, p. 114-129.
  1951, "General system theory - A new approach to unity of science" (Symposium), Human Biology, Dec. 1951, Vol. 23, p. 303-361.



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General_System_Theory

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3-5_Full_Circle

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Ludwig von Bertalanffy

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   32 Ludwig von Bertalanffy
   7 Ludwig von Bertalanffy

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1:Progress is only possible by passing from a state of undifferentiated wholeness to differentiation of parts. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
2:People are not machines, but in all situations where they are given the opportunity, they will act like machines. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
3:Apparently, the isomorphisms of laws rest in our cognition on the one hand, and in reality on the other. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
4:Progress is only possible by passing from a state of undifferentiated wholeness to differentiation of parts. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
5:A general proof is difficult because of the lack of general criteria for the existence of steady states, but it can be given for special cases. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
6:From the viewpoint of thermodynamics, open systems can maintian themselves in a state of high statistical improbability, of order and organization. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
7:We completely agree that description by differential equations is not only a clumsy but, in principle, inadequate way to deal with many problems of organization. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
8:There appears to exist a general systems laws which apply to any system of a certain type, irrespective of the particular properties of the system and of the elements involved. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
9:While systems theory in the broad sense has the character of a basic science, it has its correlate in applied science, sometimes subsumed under the general name of Systems Science. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
10:It is the 'zoomorphic' or 'rattomorphic' fallacy - the expressed or implicit contention that there is no essential difference between rat and man - which makes American psychology so profoundly disturbing. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
11:I think that the fact that a theory so vague, so insufficiently verifiable, and so far from the criteria otherwise applied in "hard" science, could become a dogma, can be explained only on sociological grounds. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
12:While we can conceive of a sum [or aggregate] as being composed gradually, a system as a total of parts with its [multiplicative] interrelations has to be conceived of as being composed instantly. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
13:If someone were to analyze current notions and fashionable catchwords, he would find "systems" high on the list. The concept has pervaded all fields of science and penetrated into popular thinking, jargon and mass media. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
14:Considering the inconceivable complexity of processes even in a simple cell, it is little short of a miracle that the simplest possible model - namely, a linear equation between two variables - actually applies in quite a general number of cases. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
15:You cannot sum up the behavior of the whole from the isolated parts, and you have to take into account the relations between the various subordinate systems which are super-ordinated to them in order to understand the behavior of the parts. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
16:We are seeking another basic outlook: the world as an organization. This would profoundly change categories of our thinking and influence our practical attitudes. We must envision the biosphere as a whole with mutually reinforcing or mutually destructive inter-dependencies. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
17:The system problem is essentially the problem of the limitation of analytical procedures in science. This used to be expressed by half-metaphysical statements, such as emergent evolution or ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts,’ but has a clear operational meaning. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
18:Science in the past (and partly in the present), was dominated by one-sided empiricism. Only a collection of data and experiments were considered as being ‘scientific’ in biology (and psychology); forgetting that a mere accumulation of data, although steadily piling up, does not make a science. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
19: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 behavior of the parts different when studied in isolation or within the whole. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
20:We realize, however, that all scientific laws merely represent abstractions and idealizations expressing certain aspects of reality. Every science means a schematized picture of reality, in the sense that a certain conceptual construct is unequivocally related to certain features of order in reality; ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
21:Also the principle of stress, so often invoked in psychology, psychiatry, and psychosomatics, needs some reevaluation. As everything in the world, stress too is an ambivalent thing. Stress is not only a danger to life to be controlled and neutralized by adaptive mechanisms; it also creates higher life. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
22:The general notion in communication theory is that of information. In many cases, the flow of information corresponds to a flow of energy, e.g. if light waves emitted by some objects reach the eye or a photoelectric cell, elicit some reaction of the organism or some machinery, and thus convey information. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
23:Therefore, general systems theory should be, methodologically, an important means of controlling and instigating the transfer of principles from one field to another, and it will no longer be necessary to duplicate or triplicate the discovery of the same principles in different fields isolated from the other. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
24:Another recent development is the theory of formal organizations, that is, structures planfully instituted, such as those of an army, Bureaucracy, business enterprise, etc. This theory is framed in a philosophy which accepts the premise that the only meaningful way to study organization is to study it as a system. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
25:Can civilizations and cultures be considered as systems? It seems, therefore, that a general theory of systems would be a useful tool providing, on the one hand, models that can be used in, and transferred different fields, and safeguarding, on the other hand, from vague analogies which often have marred the progress in these fields. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
26:A system can be defined as a set of elements standing in interrelations. Interrelation means that elements, p, stand in relations, R, so that the behavior of an element p in R is different from its behavior in another relation, R’. If the behaviors in R and R’ are not different, there is no interaction, and the elements behave independently with respect to the relations R and R’. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
27:Systems thinking plays a dominant role in a wide range of fields from industrial enterprise and armaments to esoteric topics of pure science. Innumerable publications, conferences, symposia and courses are devoted to it. Professions and jobs have appeared in recent years which, unknown a short while ago, go under names such as systems design, systems analysis, systems engineering and others. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
28:If the variables are continuous, this definition [Ashby’s fundamental concept of machine] corresponds to the description of a dynamic system by a set of ordinary differential equations with time as the independent variable. However, such representation by differential equations is too restricted for a theory to include biological systems and calculating machines where discontinuities are ubiquitous. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
29:We find systems which by their very nature and definition are not closed systems. Every living organism is essentially an open system. It maintains itself in a continuous inflow and outflow, a building up and breaking down of components, never being, so long as it is alive, in a state of chemical and thermodynamic equilibrium but maintained in a so-called steady state which is distinct from the latter. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
30:Thus even supposedly unadulterated facts of observation already are interfused with all sorts of conceptual pictures, model concepts, theories or whatever expression you choose. The choice is not whether to remain in the field of data or to theorize; the choice is only between models that are more or less abstract, generalized, near or more remote from direct observation, more or less suitable to represent observed phenomena. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy
31: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, encapsulated in their private universes, and it is difficult to get word from one cocoon to the other. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
32:Biologically, life is not maintenance or restoration of equilibrium but is essentially maintenance of disequilibria, as the doctrine of the organism as open system reveals. Reaching equilibrium means death and consequent decay. Psychologically, behaviour not only tends to release tensions but also builds up tensions; if this stops, the patient is a decaying mental corpse in the same way a living organism becomes a body in decay when tensions and forces keeping it from equilibrium have stopped. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
33:Conventional physics deals only with closed systems, i.e. systems which are considered to be isolated from their environment... However, we find systems which by their very nature and definition are not closed systems. Every living organism is essentially an open system. It maintains itself in a continuous inflow and outflow, a building up and breaking down of components, never being, so long as it is alive, in a state of chemical and thermodynamic equilibrium but maintained in a so-called steady state which is distinct from the latter. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
34:Thus, there exist models, principles, and laws that apply to generalized systems or their subclasses, irrespective of their particular kind, the nature of their component elements, and the relations or „forces‟ between them. It seems legitimate to ask for a theory, not of systems of a more or less special kind, but of universal principles applying to systems in general. In this way, we postulate a new discipline called General Systems Theory. Its subject matter is the formulation and derivation of those principles, which are valid for „systems‟ in general. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
35:Major aims of general theory:
  (1) There is a general tendency toward integration in the various sciences, natural and social.
  (2) Such integration seems to be centered in a general theory of systems.
  (3) Such theory may be an important means for aiming at exact theory in the nonphysical fields of science.
  (4) Developing unifying principles running "vertically" through the universe of the individual sciences, this theory brings us nearer the goal of the unity of science.
  (5) This can lead to a much-needed integration in scientific education. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
36:The concept of man as mass robot was both an expression of and a powerful motive force in industrialized mass society. It was the basis for behavioural engineering in commercial, economic, political and other advertising and propaganda; the expanding economy of the 'affluent society' could not subsist without such manipulation. Only by manipulating humans ever more into Skinnerian rats, robots buying automata, homeostatically adjusted conformers and opportunists (or, bluntly speaking, into morons and zombies) can this great society follow its progress toward ever increasing gross national product. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
37: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: say, the interplay of enzymes in a cell, of many mental processes conscious and unconscious, the structure and dynamics of social systems and the like. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
38:Quigley’s quest for simplicity in history did not preclude his recognition of its complexity. Instead of surrendering to historical complexity as an insurmountable obstacle and retreating to an historicism that would obviate the development of paradigms, Quigley confronted complexity head-on and sought to recognize it as an integral part of historical method. He realized that while reductionism is possible with the physical sciences, any such attempt at dissecting an historical phenomena and isolating and analyzing only one factor as an independent variable is impossible in the social sciences. Thus, Quigley studied the whole context of a phenomena, a method developed by the theoretical biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy termed “general systems theory” 10 This “generalism” became known as “holisticism” and operationalized as “macrohistory.” By “holisticism”, Quigley meant that the “whole” of reality held greater meaning than the sum of its parts, thus scholars should tend towards general studies to understand general and comparative historical concepts and paradigms rather than the hyperspecialization pervading the discipline of history.11 ~ Carroll Quigley
39:There are quite a number of novel developments intended to meet the needs of a general theory of systems. We may enumerate them in brief survey:
    Cybernetics, based upon the principle of feedback or circular causal trains providing mechanisms for goal-seeking and self-controlling behavior.
    Information theory, introducing the concept of information as a quantity measurable by an expression isomorphic to negative entropy in physics, and developing the principles of its transmission.
    Game theory, analyzing in a novel mathematical framework, rational competition between two or more antagonists for maximum gain and minimum loss.
    Decision theory, similarly analyzing rational choices, within human organizations, based upon examination of a given situation and its possible outcomes.
    Topology or relational mathematics, including non-metrical fields such as network and graph theory.
    Factor analysis, i.e., isolation by way of mathematical analysis, of factors in multivariable phenomena in psychology and other fields
    General system theory in the narrower sense (G.S.T.), trying to derive from a general definition of “system” as complex of interacting components, concepts characteristic of organized wholes such as interaction, sum, mechanization, centralization, competition, finality, etc., and to apply them to concrete phenomena. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory
40:The 19th and first half of the 20th century conceived of the world as chaos. Chaos was the oft-quoted blind play of atoms, which, in mechanistic and positivistic philosophy, appeared to represent ultimate reality, with life as an accidental product of physical processes, and mind as an epi-phenomenon. It was chaos when, in the current theory of evolution, the living world appeared as a product of chance, the outcome of random mutations and survival in the mill of natural selection. In the same sense, human personality, in the theories of behaviorism as well as of psychoanalysis, was considered a chance product of nature and nurture, of a mixture of genes and an accidental sequence of events from early childhood to maturity.
  Now we are looking for another basic outlook on the world -- the world as organization. Such a conception -- if it can be substantiated -- would indeed change the basic categories upon which scientific thought rests, and profoundly influence practical attitudes.
  This trend is marked by the emergence of a bundle of new disciplines such as cybernetics, information theory, general system theory, theories of games, of decisions, of queuing and others; in practical applications, systems analysis, systems engineering, operations research, etc. They are different in basic assumptions, mathematical techniques and aims, and they are often unsatisfactory and sometimes contradictory. They agree, however, in being concerned, in one way or another, with "systems," "wholes" or "organizations"; and in their totality, they herald a new approach. ~ Ludwig von Bertalanffy, General System Theory

IN CHAPTERS









3-5 Full Circle, #unset, #Sri Aurobindo, #Integral Yoga
  THE NECESSITY FOR TWO GLOSSARIES.
  The vocabulary of Unified Science is identical with those of the traditional sciences in regard to empirical data. Yet, while the properties and objectives which are peculiar to Unified Science are found in all of its empirical components, they result from the marriage of formal disciplines: of General Systems Theory with geometry. It is not, therefore, by chance that Unified Science appears, from the viewpoint of logic, to carry out well known proposals of two famous General Systems authorities, Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Kenneth Boulding.2
  "General systems theory in the narrower sense (G.S.T.)," says von Bertalanffy, "is trying to derive from a general definition of `system' a complex of interacting components, concepts characteristic of organized wholes . . . and to apply them to concrete phenomena."3 This method is typical of the deductive-theoretical mode of thought.

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