The properties of systems

by Claire Morley
  1. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
  2. An organism is a system in itself made up of sub-systems which themselves comprise organisms.
  3. Nature exists as integrated and harmonious wholes the properties of which are destroyed when the whole is dissected, physically or theoretically, into isolated elements.
  4. Nature exists as integrated and harmonious wholes which can be seen to exist as systems showing common properties, behaviours, patterning and tendencies.
  5. Systems exhibit certain complementary properties:
    self-assertiveness                  integration
    self-maintaining                    self-transforming
    dynamism                               stability
  6. Within self-maintaining are :- self-renewal, healing, homeostasis and adaptation.
  7. Within self-transformation are :- learning or adaptation, growth and evolution.
  8. General Systems Theory shifts the focus from the physical structures to processes or energy flows.
  9. System structures arise from interactions and interdependencies between specific components.
  10. Ludwig von Bertalanffy conducted his theory of open systems from a thermodynamic point of view (similar to that being developed by Ilya Prigogine at the same time). In contrast to closed systems, a dynamically irreversible steady-state is established, whereby process rates are exactly synchronised to specific components as well as to the Eigengeschwindigkeit of the complex whole.
  11. Systems frameworks are a network of interlocking concepts and simultaneously developing social organisations.
  12. Systems go beyond disciplinary distinctions.
  13. No system is more fundamental than another.
  14. Elements of a system are in mutual dynamic interaction; these transactional phenomena are mutually conditioning.
  15. Systems show an energy flow both up and down the strata of the system.
  16. The living form is a visible manifestation of the dynamics of the underlying formative processes.
  17. At each level, the system under scrutiny may constitute an individual organism, which whist being relatively autonomous is also a component of a larger organism.
  18. Systems show homeostasis; maintaining stability through dynamic process. When usual patterns of a system are disturbed by raised/lowered levels of input, stability is maintained by negative feedback mechanisms. But there are also positive feedback mechanisms that can drive the system into a new structure.
  19. Systems are dynamic but stable. Varying environmental conditions raise energy demands on a system striving to maintain that stability. This may be coped with in the short term or the organism may sicken and die. Somatic adaptation may take place which is an adjustment or acclimatisation of an organism or system. Ultimately environmental change may be met by mutation and evolution.
  20. Evolution of systems operates far from equilibrium; it unfolds through chance, adaptation and creation.
  21. The nature of the whole is expressed in the individual entity.
  22. The individual is given meaning through the whole.