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This book expands the foundations of general systems theory to enable progress beyond the rich heuristic practices available today. It establishes a foundational framework for the development of scientific transdisciplinary systems principles and shows how these can amplify the potential of individuals and teams working in multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary contexts or striving to translate their progress across disciplinary boundaries. Three general scientific systems principles are presented, and their relevance to the design, analysis, management and transformation of systems is explored.

Applying lessons from the history and philosophy science, this book disambiguates key concepts of general systemology, clarifies the role of general systemology within the field of systemology, and explains how general systemology supports other forms of transdisciplinarity. These insights are used to develop new perspectives, strategies and tools for addressing long-standing challenges to the advancement and transdisciplinary application of general insights into the nature of complex systems.

The material presented in this book includes comprehensive models of the structure of systemology as a disciplinary field, the structure and significance of the general systems worldview, and the role of general systemology as the heart of systems science, systems engineering and systems practice. It explains what a fully-fledged general theory of systems would look like, what its potential is, what routes are available to us to develop it further, and how to leverage the knowledge we have attained so far.

Many examples and analogies show how general systemology has the potential to enable scientific discovery, insightful theory building, and practical innovation in all the disciplines as they study, design, nurture or transform complex systems. This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to master the concepts, terminology, models and strategies needed to make effective use of current general systems knowledge and to engage in the further development of the philosophy, science, and practice of general systemology.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
The quest for a scientific general systems theory formally started in the 1950s, but progress has been slow. In this chapter we introduce General Systemology, and discuss its origins in the 1950s and its subsequent history in the general systems movement. We discuss its potential and challenges, and outline the key steps needed to establish it as a useful academic discipline.
David Rousseau, Jennifer Wilby, Julie Billingham, Stefan Blachfellner

Chapter 2. A Disciplinary Field Model for Systemology

Abstract
The field of systems is still a nascent academic discipline, with a high degree of fragmentation, no common perspective on the disciplinary structure of the systems domain, and many ambiguities in its use of the term “General Systems Theory”. In this chapter we develop a generic model for the structure of a discipline (of any kind) and of disciplinary fields of all kinds, and use this to develop a Typology for the domain of systems.
We identify the domain of systems as a transdisciplinary field, and reiterate proposals to call it “Systemology” and its unifying theory GST* (pronounced “G-S-T-star”). We propose names for other major components of the field, and present a tentative map of the systems field, highlighting key gaps and shortcomings. We argue that such a model of the systems field can be helpful for guiding the development of Systemology into a fully-fledged academic field, and for understanding the relationships between Systemology as a transdisciplinary field and the specialized disciplines with which it is engaged.
David Rousseau, Jennifer Wilby, Julie Billingham, Stefan Blachfellner

Chapter 3. The Potential of General Systemology as a Transdiscipline

Abstract
The pioneers of the general systems movement envisioned the development of a new scientific ‘meta-discipline’ grounded in a “General Systems Theory” (GST*), a theory that encompasses universal principles underlying the systemic behaviours of all kinds of “real-world” systems. In contemporary terms we can identify this as a vision for a “transdiscipline” and we discuss its relationship to other conceptions of transdisciplinarity. In line with arguments presented elsewhere we identify this transdiscipline as “General Systemology”, and the application of it as “General Systems Transdisciplinarity” (GSTD). The founders of the general systems movement argued that GSTD would be important for assisting the transfer knowledge between disciplines, facilitating interdisciplinary communication, supporting the development of exact models in areas where they are lacking, and promoting the “unity” of knowledge. In this chapter we defend this view, and infer that the scope and range of GSTD is wider than hitherto recognized, and argue that GSTD would potentially be the most powerful of the transdisciplines.
David Rousseau, Jennifer Wilby, Julie Billingham, Stefan Blachfellner

Chapter 4. The Existence, Nature and Value of General Systems Theory (GST*)

Abstract
The founders of the general systems movement envisaged the development of a theory articulating and inter-relating the principles underlying the systemic behaviours of all kinds of concrete systems. We call this theory GST* (“g-s-t-star”) to disambiguate it from other uses of the term “GST” prevalent in the literature. GST* is still radically underdeveloped, but its nature can be analysed. GST* is a formal theory, because the principles of GST* would apply across all kinds of systems, that is, GST* would predict behaviours and structures of systems qua systems, without regard for the kind of system under consideration, and hence it is neutral with respect to ontology.
There is a long-standing controversy within the systems community about whether a GST* exists in principle, whether it would be of practical value if it did, and how its principles might be discovered. In this chapter we argue by analogy from the history of science that if a GST* could be developed it would be highly valuable, and show that its existence is predicated on the assumption of a philosophical framework called the General Systems Worldview (GSW). We present an argument that development of the General Systems Worldview can guide us to the discovery of general systems principles for a GST*, and that together GST* and the GSW can ground the development of a powerful General Systems Transdiscipline, now called “General Systemology”.
David Rousseau, Jennifer Wilby, Julie Billingham, Stefan Blachfellner

Chapter 5. The Knowledge Base of General Systemology

Abstract
The search for a foundational general systems theory (GST*) formally became a scientific enterprise with the founding of the Society for the Advancement of General Systems Theory in 1954. Many scientific advances have been made towards a GST*, but GST* is still incomplete and there is a rich ongoing debate about the nature, structure and value of GST*. In this chapter we argue that the general theory of a discipline has a generic structure, which can be inferred by attending to the process by which disciplines build up their knowledge base. We develop a model of this generic structure and then use it to envision the structure and scope of GST*. This provides a principled baseline for assessing the developmental status of GST*, planning work towards its completion, and defending the potential value of GST*.
David Rousseau, Jennifer Wilby, Julie Billingham, Stefan Blachfellner

Chapter 6. Scientific Principles for General Systemology

Abstract
In this chapter, we develop a detailed discussion about the nature and evolution of general principles in science, how they relate to worldviews, laws, theories and theoretical virtues. We then apply this analysis to systems principles, to develop strategies for deriving general scientific systems principles. By applying these insights and also the conclusions from previous chapters we then present work done to discover three general scientific systems principles, and discuss some of the practical implications of these principles.
David Rousseau, Jennifer Wilby, Julie Billingham, Stefan Blachfellner

Backmatter

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