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Courses: SYSC 521/621: Systems Philosophy

This seminar will consider some philosophical issues central to the systems field. Fundamental to these issues is Bunge's conception of systems science as a research program aimed at the construction of "an exact and scientific metaphysics," that is, a set of transdisciplinary concepts, models, and theories of broad generality and philosophical import, central to the sciences, and cast (or capable ultimately of being cast) in the exact language of mathematics.

The course draws from the literature of general systems theory and cybernetics, which launched the systems research program, and from the literature of chaos, complexity, and complex adaptive systems which continues this program today.  It presents a broad range of systems ideas (from information theory, game theory, thermodynamics, non-linear dynamics, decision theory, and many other areas) and attempts to integrate these ideas into a coherent framework. These ideas will be organized around the theme of fundamental "problems," that is, difficulties (imperfections, modes of failure) encountered by many systems of widely differing types.

While most of these ideas are mathematically-based, they will be approached in this course primarily at a conceptual level (with mathematical details provided as requested). Many of these systems ideas derive from the natural sciences and engineering, but they apply as well to the social sciences and to fields of professional practice (business, the helping professions, etc.). It is primarily their relevance to the human domain--to individuals,  organizations, societies, and the global human community--and to technology which motivates this theoretical/philosophical inquiry. Certain of these ideas pertain also to the arts and humanities.

Readings will be from (1) the manuscript of a book (working title: Elements and Relations) being written by the instructor, which undertakes the integration spoken of above; this is available from the PSU Bookstore. There is optional supporting material in (2) a Scientific American Reader in Systems Theory & Complex Systems at the PSU Bookstore.

Course work: six mini-papers; class participation

Prerequisites: graduate status in Systems Science or permission of instructor.

Information on Systems Theory and Philosophy research


 Fall 2013 Syllabus