It is the 'zoomorphic' or 'rattomorphic' fallacy - the expressed or implicit contention that there is no essential difference between rat and man - which makes American psychology so profoundly disturbing.
If someone were to analyze current notions and fashionable catchwords, he would find "systems" high on the list. The concept has pervaded all fields of science and penetrated into popular thinking, jargon and mass media.
Biological communities are systems of interacting components and thus display characteristic properties of systems, such as mutual interdependence, self-regulation, adaptation to disturbances, approach to states of equilibrium, etc.
We are seeking another basic outlook: the world as an organization. This would profoundly change categories of our thinking and influence our practical attitudes. We must envision the biosphere as a whole with mutually reinforcing or mutually destructive inter-dependencies.
We are seeking for another basic outlook - the world as organization. This would profoundly change the categories of our thinking and influence our practical attitudes. We must envision the biosphere as a whole with mutually reinforcing or mutually destructive interdependencies.
These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter is formulation of principles that are valid for "systems" in general, whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or "forces" between them.
It is necessary to study not only parts and processes in isolation, but also to solve the decisive problems found in organization and order unifying them, resulting from dynamic interaction of parts, and making the the behavoir of the parts different when studied in isolation or within the whole.
Science in the past (and partly in the present), was dominated by one-sided empiricism. Only a collection of data and experiments were considered as being ‘scientific’ in biology (and psychology); forgetting that a mere accumulation of data, although steadily piling up, does not make a science.
It is necessary to study not only parts and processes in isolation, but also to solve the decisive problems found in organization and order unifying them, resulting from dynamic interaction of parts, and making the the behavoir of the parts different when studied in isolation or within the whole...
Also the principle of stress, so often invoked in psychology, psychiatry, and psychosomatics, needs some reevaluation. As everything in the world, stress too is an ambivalent thing. Stress is not only a danger to life to be controlled and neutralized by adaptive mechanisms; it also creates higher life.
Therefore, general systems theory should be, methodologically, an important means of controlling and instigating the transfer of principles from one field to another, and it will no longer be necessary to duplicate or triplicate the discovery of the same principles in different fields isolated from the other.
General system theory, therefore, is a general science of "wholeness...The meaning of the somewhat mystical expression, "The whole is more that the sum of its parts" is simply that constitutive characteristics are not explanable from the characteristics of the isolated parts. The characteristics of the complex, therefore, appear as "new" or "emergent.
We find systems which by their very nature and definition are not closed systems. Every living organism is essentially an open system. It maintains itself in a continuous inflow and outflow, a building up and breaking down of components, never being, so long as it is alive, in a state of chemical and thermodynamic equilibrium but maintained in a so-called steady state which is distinct from the latter.
Here appear to exist general system laws which apply to any system of a particular type, irrespective of the particular properties of the systems and the elements involved. Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology.
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. Thus science is split into innumerable disciplines continually generating new subdisciplines. In consequence, the physicist, the biologist, the psychologist and the social scientist are, so to speak, encapusulated in their private universes, and it is difficult to get word from one cocoon to the other.
Biologically, life is not maintenance or restoration of equilibrium but is essentially maintenance of disequilibria, as the doctrine of the organism as open system reveals. Reaching equilibrium means death and consequent decay. Psychologically, behaviour not only tends to release tensions but also builds up tensions; if this stops, the patient is a decaying mental corpse in the same way a living organism becomes a body in decay when tensions and forces keeping it from equilibrium have stopped.
Concepts like those of organization, wholeness, directiveness, teleology, control, self-regulation, differentiation, and the like are alien to conventional science. However, they pop up everywhere in the biological, behavioral, and social sciences and are, in fact, indispensable for dealing with living organisms or social groups. Thus, a basic problem posed to modem science is a general theory of organization. General Systems Theory is, in principle, capable of giving exact definitions for such concepts.
Conventional physics deals only with closed systems, i.e. systems which are considered to be isolated from their environment... However, we find systems which by their very nature and definition are not closed systems. Every living organism is essentially an open system. It maintains itself in a continuous inflow and outflow, a building up and breaking down of components, never being, so long as it is alive, in a state of chemical and thermodynamic equilibrium but maintained in a so-called steady state which is distinct from the latter.
The concept of man as mass robot was both an expression of and a powerful motive force in industrialized mass society. It was the basis for behavioural engineering in commercial, economic, political and other advertising and propaganda; the expanding economy of the 'affluent society' could not subsist without such manipulation. Only by manipulating humans ever more into Skinnerian rats, robots buying automata, homeostatically adjusted conformers and opportunists (or, bluntly speaking, into morons and zombies) can this great society follow its progress toward ever increasing gross national product.
Entities of an essentially new sort are entering the sphere of scientific thought. Classical science in its diverse disciplines, be it chemistry, biology, psychology or the social sciences, tried to isolate the elements of the observed universe - chemical compounds and enzymes, cells, elementary sensations, freely competing individuals, what not -- expecting that, by putting them together again, conceptually or experimentally, the whole or system - cell, mind, society - would result and be intelligible. Now we have learned that for an understanding not only the elements but their interrelations as well are required...
In our considerations we started with a general definition of "systems" defined as a "set of elements standing in interrelations... No special hypothesis or statement were made about the nature of the system, of its elements or the relations between them. Nevertheless from this purely formal definition of "system" many properties follow which in part are expressed in laws well-known in various fields of science, and in part concern concepts previously regarded as anthropomorphic, vitalistic. or metaphysical. The parallelism of general conceptions or even special laws in different fields therefore is a consequence of the fact that those are concerned with "systems" and that certain general principles apply to systems irrespective of their nature.
Our civilization seems to be suffering a second curse of Babel: Just as the human race builds a tower of knowledge that reaches to the heavens, we are stricken by a malady in which we find ourselves attempting to communicate with each other in countless tongues of scientific specialization... The only goal of science appeared to be analytical, i.e., the splitting up of reality into ever smaller units and the isolation of individual causal trains...We may state as characteristic of modern science that this scheme of isolable units acting in one-way causality has proven to be insufficient. Hence the appearance, in all fields of science, of notions like wholeness, holistic, organismic, gestalt, etc., which all signify that, in the last resort, we must think in terms of systems of elements in mutual interaction.