Basic Notions - System

The eminent cybernetician Stafford Beer defines a system as “anything that consists of parts connected together.”[1] George Klir[2] also says that “the term ‘system’ stands, in general, for a set of some things and a relation among things.” Therefore, for something to be identified as a system, there needs to be some form of relation amongst some parts; as a result, a man working with a screwdriver is a system by itself. However, the man with the screwdriver is, in turn, a part of an assembly line system, which itself is a part of a manufacturing system, and so on. The world is, in fact, made up of innumerable sets of systems, each embedded within other systems, each a member of many other systems.

For that reason, the sheer act of defining any given system is, in essence, arbitrary. An observer is required to select a set of ‘things’[3] amongst all the things in the world, a set of ‘relations’[4] amongst all the possible relations, and draw an imaginary border, embodying the parts of the system and their inter-relations, circumscribing and casting the line as wide or as narrow as they wish to define the object of their study.

For the purpose of this paper, in a dispute situation, one can define a system to include disputant parties and the subject of dispute between them, while the borders of this system can expand to include their immediate families and their relations, or even further to include their expanded community.



[1] Beer, S. (1959). Cybernetics and Management (p. 9). London: English Universities Press. 

[2] Klir, G. J. (2001). Facets of Systems Science (p. 4). Springer.

[3] In George Klir’s words: Thinghood

[4] In George Klir’s words: Systemhood

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