Life, Language, Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur F. Bentley

By Richard W. Taylor | Go to book overview

III
General System Theory*

By LUDWIG VON BERTALANFFY


The Quest for a General System Theory

MODERN SCIENCE is characterized by its ever-increasing specialization, necessitated by the enormous amount of data, the complexity of techniques and of theoretical structures within every field. This, however, has led to a breakdown of science as an integrated realm: The physicist, the biologist, the psychologist and the social scientist are, so to speak, encapsulated in a private universe, and it is difficult to get word from one cocoon to the other.

There is, however, another remarkable aspect. If we survey the evolution of modern science, as compared to science a few decades ago, we are impressed by the fact that similar general viewpoints and conceptions have appeared in very diverse fields. Problems of organization, of wholeness, of dynamic interaction, are urgent in modern physics, chemistry, physical chemistry, and technology. In biology problems of an organismic sort are everywhere encountered: it is necessary to study not only isolated parts and processes, but the essential problems are the organizing relations that result from dynamic interaction and make the behavior of parts different when studied in isolation or within the whole. The same trend is manifest in gestalt theory and other movements as opposed to classical psychology, as well as in modern conceptions of the social sciences. These parallel developments in the various fields are even more dramatic if we consider the fact that they are mutually independent and largely unaware of each other.

____________________
*

Published by permission from Main Currents in Modern Thought, Vol. 11, No. 4, March, 1955, pp. 75-83. This is the Journal of the Foundation for Integrated Education.

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