While man and his situation are the central focus of all social and humanistic sciences, each science pursues its studies from a certain point of view. Political science concentrates on the society’s political and administrative organization. Business economics is concerned with the commercial organization, geography with the physical structure and philosophy with the pattern of thought, views of life and ideologies, to name some examples.
Systems science too has its specific point of view: to understand man and his environment as part of interacting systems. The aim is to study this interaction from multiple perspectives, holistically. Inherent to this approach is a comprehensive historical, contemporary and futuristic outlook.
Systems science, with such an ambition and with its basic Systems Theory, provides a general language with which to tie together various areas in interdisciplinary communication. As such it automatically strives towards a universal science, i.e. to join together the many splintered disciplines with a Taw of laws’, applicable to them all and integrating all scientific knowledge. Systems science can promote a culture wherein science, philosophy and religion are no longer separated from each other.
To engage oneself in systems science is therefore a highly cross- scientific occupation. The student will come in contact with the many different academic disciplines: philosophy, sociology, physics, biology, etc. The consequent possibility of all-round education is something particularly needed in our over-specialized society.
Contributions concerning all-round education include thoughts put forward by a number of distinguished people. François Voltaire once said: ‘Education is the only quality which remains after we have forgotten all we have learned’. Oscar Wilde said in one of his plays: ‘Education is a good thing but it ought to be remembered that nothing which is worth knowing can be taught.’ A Swedish proverb tells us that: ‘Education is not something which can be learned; it is something you acquire.’
In the following pages some Western system-theoretical outlooks and theories will be presented together with central concepts (the Eastern world has its own tradition although science is an offspring of Western civilization as a whole). Some philosophical aspects will also receive attention. The broad spectrum of knowledge will be introduced according to the funnel method: much will be poured in, but the output will be a defined flow of systems knowledge.
The natural starting point should be in the golden age of Greece, the cradle of Western modern human science. Beginning in the Middle Ages will (besides keeping the number of pages down) suffice to provide the background necessary to understand the origin of systems thinking and the subsequent development.
Source: Skyttner Lars (2006), General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice, Wspc, 2nd Edition.