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.


WHOLE and PARTS 1)2)3)

These antithetic concepts are very basic for the understanding of the systemic view of the world.

I. BLAUBERG, V. SADOVSKY and E. YUDIN, who consider both concepts as categories, write:

"The cleavage and opposition of the part and the whole produced the antinomies of wholeness. The principal ones were:

- 1. Thesis: the whole is the sum of parts Antithesis: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (note: or less or other!)

2. The parts precede the whole. The whole precedes the parts

3. The whole is casually determined by its parts.

The wholeness approach is opposed to the causal one and rules it out

4. The whole is cognized through the knowledge of its parts

Parts as a product of division of the whole may be cognized only on the basis of the knowledge of the whole" (1977, p.99-100).

This traditional viewpoint has now been reformulated in a non contradictory way as stated by the same authors: "The solution of the problem lies in that wholeness is characterized by new qualities and properties not inherent in the parts but appearing from their interaction in a certain system of connections…

"… in the relation between the parts and the whole neither side can be considered without the other: a part outside the whole is not a part but quite a different object, since in an integral system the parts express the nature of the whole and adquire properties specific to it; on the other hand, the whole without (or before) the parts is unthinkable, since an absolutely simple, structureless and even mentally indivisible body cannot have any properties or interact with other bodies" (1977, p.100).

Synthetically, a part (or element) within a whole (or system) is itself plus its connections with other parts and less the constraints which result from these connections.

As in many other cases, the old, absolute dichotomies appear now as unduly simplified abstractions.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


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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