PROBLEMS IN THE RECEPTION OF GST
A problem with the reception of GST lies in the book compiled by the founder (Bertalanffy, 1969). The book is a rhapsody of sometimes shortened articles that were written over the whole period of Bertalanffy's concerns with GST. The book does not provide a synthesis or concise overview of the field. Many authors refer solely to this book when mentioning GST, for example De Zeeuw (2006). Sometimes only certain aspects of GST are selected; this can result in misunderstandings and eventually lead to serious problems.
Dubrovsky tried to make a case against GST, saying that, so far, no 'general system principles' have been formulated. Furthermore, he states that 'GST does not have a method that addresses its subject matter: formulation of principles applicable to all systems' (Dubrovsky, 2004, p. 112). The critique was supposedly linked to the problematic notion that GST is underlied by a naive realist ontology, that is to viewing unity, part and relationship as ontological entities. He proposed reinvestigating Kant to overcome purported GST shortcomings. We, however, do not agree with Dubrovsky's (2004) claim that '[a]ll general system theorists share the realist view of systems'. On the contrary, Bertalanffy talked about models and perspectivism, that is he argued epistemologically.
Palmer made an interesting, though doubtful, statement regarding the relationship between software engineering and GST, especially with regard to Klir's GSPS. He stated that system science is "ignoring the fact that it is a 'metaphysical' discipline" (Palmer, 1996). At the very least, Bertalanffy's perspectivism must be seen in an epistemological way. GST was understood as a scientific and not as a metaphysical program.
A block for some authors in the reception of GST has been the theory's purported ontological attitude. Yet, as clarified by Pouvreau and Drack (2007), the founder of GST, Bertalanffy, cannot be accused of unmindfully mixing the areas of ontology and epistemology.
We also disagree with certain suggestions that Bertalanffy's system thinking should be in favour of 'holism' and 'emergentism'. He clearly judged both conceptions as metaphysical ones (Pouvreau and Drack, 2007, p. 308). Holism and emergentism were used in different contexts and ways that should not be mixed uncritically with GST.
Schurz (2004) assumed that system laws exist and that '[s]ystem laws are based on natural laws but do not have their stringency'; they are 'softer'. Although general system laws are widely missing, the former statement is doubtful. GST for Bertalanffy was a means for systems in general just as probability theory has been a means for thermodynamics (and many other fields) in that laws of higher order were derived without taking into account the behaviour of each single particle (Bertalanffy, 1951, p. 304). Yet, the statistical laws of thermodynamics are still natural laws.
Date: 2015-01-11; view: 840