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SIG Chair: Vincent Vesterby

thegeneralist@themoderngeneralist.com

The general systems SIG invites contributions in the following areas:

Systems are ubiquitous and omnipresent throughout the hierarchic organization of material-reality, from protons composed of quarks to the infinite universe itself. To incorporate this vast range of different types of systems, a general theory of systems would be, of necessity, a transdisciplinary form of understanding.

A general theory of systems of any form is a generalist level of understanding. Due to the range of knowledge required and due to the flood of knowledge provided by science, it has been impossible for hundreds of years to be a generalist in the traditional sense of quantity of knowledge. Bertalanffy, and others such as Alexander Bogdanov, pointed out that generalist style understanding should be achievable by way of general principles of systems structure and process, and by way of isomorphies that occur within different systems and at different levels of the hierarchic organization of material-reality. This style of generalist understanding is based not on quantity of knowledge, but on type of knowledge—knowledge applicable across all the disciplines, transdisciplinary knowledge.

Bertalanffy’s general systems proposal develops directly into transdisciplinary understanding. When isomorphies that occur at multiple levels of material-reality are used as conceptual tools to achieve understanding across those levels, knowledge of those isomorphies constitutes transdisciplinary understanding. This has been long recognized. In 1986 Charles François made this comment, “Transdisciplinarity implies: . . . 2. The existence of a common metalanguage, based on isomorphies useful to convey generalized concepts and metamodels.”

To date, relatively few isomorphies have been recognized—not enough to form the basis of a transdisciplinary language. If knowledge of isomorphies constitutes transdisciplinary understanding, then the names of isomorphies are the words of transdisciplinary language. Identifying isomorphies, naming them, and building the transdisciplinary language, then, is one route to achieving transdisciplinary understanding and the fulfillment of Bertalanffy’s vision of general system theory.

This SIG, therefore, is looking for papers and presentations that identify isomorphies and demonstrate their occurrence in situations, systems, or levels of material hierarchy.


Because the ultimate goal of the SIG is a transdisciplinary general system theory, we need to develop an understanding of the intrinsic nature of systems, their structure and their processes. Every system has two basic types of components—(1) material units and (2) relations between those units. From the level of protons on up, the material units of systems are themselves systems, resulting in a hierarchical organization of systems of interrelating subsystems. These subsystems occur in great diversity of forms and play an equally diverse variety of roles within the larger system in which they are components.

The SIG, then, is looking for papers and presentations that identify system components—subsystems and interrelations between them—particularly those subsystems and interrelations that can be demonstrated to be isomorphic among a variety of different systems.

A system is a group of interrelating components that continues to exist as a group of interrelating components over some relevant period of time. This continuance of the identity of the group of interrelating components as a system is a consequence of the nature of the interrelations between the subunits of the system. The intrinsic nature of the subunits determine the intrinsic nature of the relations they can have with other subunits. Thus there is the development from the nature of the units to the nature of the relations to the nature of the system as a whole.

The SIG is looking for papers and presentations that identify this developmental sequence that results in the emergence of the intrinsic structure and processes of the system, and thereby results in the emergence of the system as a whole, a system with ongoing continuance of its identity as a system.

Systems come in seemingly unlimited diversity. Within this diversity there are evident types of systems, (a) atomic systems from hydrogen to the heavy elements, (b) molecular systems from simple molecules such as water to the complexity of proteins, © chemical systems from the depositional systems within geodes to the chemistry of life, (d) planetary systems such as global weather patterns and plate tectonics, (e) social systems, (f) ecosystems, (g) solar systems, and (h) galactic systems. This list, as stated, represents a traditional generalist view of the different types of systems, based in large part on the various hierarchical levels of material-reality.

There is another, complementary, way to identify different types of systems—by the isomorphic factors of system structure and process that give these different types of systems their intrinsic characters and distinctions from other types of systems. For example, essentially all systems are open systems with various degrees and types of throughflow of energy and matter. There is great diversity in the manner in which these throughflows occur and in the types of interactions they have with various types of systems. The types of isomorphic throughflow and the types of isomorphic interaction provide a natural basis for identifying different types of systems.

Throughflow is a foundational, essentially universal, quality of systems. Complex adaptive behavior is another isomorphic factor of system structure and process, one that occurs in relatively few highly developed systems. This factor first of all distinguishes those systems that have it. Then, differences of system structure and process underlying complex adaptive behavior distinguish the different types of complex adaptive behavior, which provides a natural basis for identifying different types of systems that have this factor.

The SIG would like to see papers and presentations that identify types of systems based on the intrinsic systemic qualities of the systems.

The names of isomorphies, system components, and different types of systems all contribute to the developing vocabulary of a transdisciplinary language. The reality-referents of these terns do not exist in isolation. Isomorphic patterns-of-organization, system structures and processes, and various types of systems all occur together in specific patterns of interrelation. The transition from the nature of the component units of a system, to the consequent nature of the relations between those units, to the consequent nature of the pattern-of-organization of the system as a whole is an example. Within this example there are two universal omnipresent factors that determine the syntax of this transdisciplinary language:

1. Structural-logic is the intrinsic logic of reality. This is a nonlinguistic, nonsymbolic, noncategorical, nonanthropogenic form of logic. Structural-logic is the manner in which the intrinsic qualities of something that exists determine the types of relations that something can have with other things that exist. This occurs in the reality-referent of the example when the intrinsic nature of the units determine the types of relations they can have with one another. And it occurs again when the intrinsic nature of those relations determine the nature of the consequent pattern-of-organization of the emergent system. Structural-logic determines the sequential order of the development from the units to their relations and from those relations to the system as a whole. This intrinsic order of relations determined by structural-logic is the origin and foundation of the syntax of transdisciplinary language.

2. Development is the universal factor of sequential-difference in the relations between all that exists. With development, structural-logic plays more complex roles in more complex situations as additional factors play additional roles in those situations. Structural-logic determines the order of development relation by relation, while development is the consequent ordered sequence of relations. Structural-logic determines the word by word syntax of transdisciplinary language, while development provides the extended sequence of relations, the extended sequential syntax, and thereby the extended sequence of meaning of transdisciplinary language.

The SIG is hoping for papers and presentations that present descriptions of these nonanthropogenic sources of the syntax of transdisciplinary language.

Presentation Format: 20 minutes presentation and 10 minutes discussion.

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