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systems theorySystemtheorie (ger.)

  • Not properly a single theory, but any approach to a complex structure that abstracts away from the particular physical, chemical, or biological nature of its components and simply considers the structure they together implement, in terms of the functional role of individual parts and their contribution to the functioning of the whole. (Oxford Dict. of Philosophy 2008)

    Die »Systemtheorie« oder »organismische Theorie« des Verf. findet sich dargestellt in dessen Buch: Kritische Theorie der Formbildung 1928.

    Bertalanffy, L. von (1929). Zum Problem einer theoretischen Biologie. Kant Stud. 34, 374-390: 387.


    Aus der bisherigen Darstellung ist wohl klar geworden, daß die Systemtheorie des Lebens die Gegensätze des bisherigen »Mechanismus« und »Vitalismus« in sehr vollkommener Weise überwindet

    Bertalanffy, L. von (1932). Theoretische Biologie, vol. 2: 120; cf. ibid. vol. 1: 80; id. (1933). Modern Theories of Development: 46.


    We must […] try to establish a new standpoint which–as opposed to mechanism–takes account of organic individuality and wholeness, but–in contrast to vitalism–treats it in a manner which admints of scientific investigation. This view, considered as a method of investigation, we shall call ‘organismic biology’, and, as an attempt at explanation, ‘the system-theory of the organism’.

    Bertalanffy, L. von (1933). Modern Theories of Development: 46.


    The formal correspondence of general principles, irrespective of the kind of relations or forces between the components, leads to the conception of a “General System Theory” as a new scientific doctrine, concerned with the principles which apply to systems in general.

    Bertalanffy, L. von (1950). The theory of open systems in physics and biology. Science 111, 23-29: 28.