The Supply of Concepts

The Supply of Concepts

The Supply of Concepts

The Supply of Concepts

Synopsis

The Supply of Concepts achieves a major breakthrough in the general theory of systems. The author unites all knowledge by including not only the natural but also the philosophical and theological universes of discourse. The general systems model presented here resembles an organizational flow chart that represents conceptual positions within any type of system and shows how the parts are connected hierarchically for communication and control. Analyzing many types of systems in various branches of learned discourse, the model demonstrates how any system type manages to maintain itself true to type. The concepts thus generated form a network that serves as a storehouse for the supply of concepts in learned discourse.

Excerpt

I found a job in a school of public health long ago, at a time when a sociologist was still a novelty in such settings. My new associates--predominantly physicians and nurses--were interested to hear from me about the social sciences, but for the most part they were not receptive to abstract explanations. I have never found a way to explain the social without abstractions. I did, however, develop a conceptual scheme in those days that had the virtue of needing very little space when diagrammed on a blackboard. In due time, it occurred to me that my peculiar diagram was applicable not only to the social in general but also, in its format, to systems in general.

By that time, I had become aware of the literature of the general systems movement, especially through the writings of Ludwig von Bertalanffy. A blurb on the cover of his General System Theory (1968) characterizes that volume as "an authoritative introduction to one of the most important theoretical and methodological reorientations in contemporary physical, biological, behavioral and social sciences." Bertalanffy was trained as a biologist and early in his career subscribed to "the so-called organismic viewpoint" (p. 89). He employed scientific reasoning for the development of interdisciplinary theory toward the goal of unifying all the sciences.

Not all disciplines, however, are sciences. Some authors have approached what Emery (1969) called "systems thinking" by conducting their reasoning under the banner of philosophy (Laszlo 1972 . . .

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