Centre for Systems Philosophy

Recommended Reading

General Background

The founding text of Systems Philosophy is Laszlo (1972).  It is useful to read it in conjunction with the introduction to the revised second edition of the founding text of General Systems Theory (von Bertalanffy, 1976) .  For an accessible overview of systems thinking and systems practice see Skyttner (2006).  For a four-volume set of classic papers in “Systems Thinking” see Midgley (2003).  For an overview of the historical development of the systems perspective see Capra & Luisi (2014).  For an overview of the state-of-the-art in the application and potential of the systems perspective  see Mobus & Kalton (2015). 

  • Laszlo, E. (1972). Introduction to Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm of Contemporary Thought. New York  N.Y.: Gordon & Breach.
  • Von Bertalanffy, L. (1976). General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. (Revised Edition). New York: Braziller.
  • Skyttner, L. (2006). General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice (2nd ed.). Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific Publishing Co.
  • Midgley, G. (Ed.). (2003). Systems Thinking (4 Vols). London: SAGE.
  • Capra, P. F., & Luisi, P. L. (2014). The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Mobus, G.E., & Kalton, M.C. (2015) Principles of Systems Science.  New York: Springer.

History of General Systemology

  • Drack, M. (2009). Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s early system approach. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 26(5), 563–572.
  • Drack, M., & Pouvreau, D. (2015). On the history of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s ‘General Systemology’, and on its relationship to cybernetics – part III: convergences and divergences. International Journal of General Systems, 0(0), 1–49. http://doi.org/10.1080/03081079.2014.1000642
  • Drack, M., & Schwarz, G. (2010). Recent Developments in General System Theory. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 27(6), 601–610.
  • Pouvreau, D. (2013). The project of ‘general systemology’ instigated by Ludwig von Bertalanffy: Genealogy, genesis, reception and advancement. Kybernetes, 42(6), 851–868.
  • Pouvreau, D. (2014). On the history of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s ‘general systemology’, and on its relationship to cybernetics - Part II: Contexts and developments of the systemological hermeneutics instigated by von Bertalanffy. International Journal of General Systems, 43(2), 172–245.
  • Pouvreau, D., & Drack, M. (2007). On the history of Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s ‘General Systemology’, and on its relationship to cybernetics, Part 1. International Journal of General Systems, 36(3), 281–337.

Systems terms and concepts

  • Bunge, M. (1977). Ontology I: The furniture of the world. Reidel.
  • Bunge, M. (1979). Ontology II: A World of Systems. Dordrecht: Reidel.
  • Bunge, M. (2003). The Philosophical Dictionary (Enlarged edition). Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • Francois, C. (Ed.). (2004). International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics. Munich: Saur Verlag.

Philosophical aspects of systems thinking

  • Bryant, J. (1991). Systems Theory and Scientific Philosophy: An Application of the Cybernetics of W. Ross Ashby to Personal and Social Philosophy, the Philosophy of Mind, and the Problems of Artifical Intelligence. Lanham MD: University Press of America.
  • Bunge, M. (2001). Scientific Realism: Selected Essays of Mario Bunge. (M. Mahner, Ed.). Prometheus Books.
  • Bunge, M. (2003). Emergence and Convergence: Qualitative Novelty and the Unity of Knowledge. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Bunge, M. (2004). How Does It Work? The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 34(2), 182–210.
  • Bunge, M. (2010). Matter and Mind: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Bunge, M. (2012). Evaluating Philosophies. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Caws, P. (1965). The philosophy of science: A systematic account. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand.
  • Corradini, A., & O’Connor, T. (2013). Emergence in Science and Philosophy. New York  NY: Routledge.
  • Craver, C., & Darden, L. (2013). In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across The Life Sciences. Chicago  IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Dilworth, C. (1996). The Metaphysics of Science: An Account of Modern Science in Terms of Principles, Laws and Theories. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Ellis, B. (2002). The Philosophy of Nature: a Guide to the New Essentialism. Chesham: Acumen
  • Gillett, C. (2007). The metaphysics of mechanisms and the challenge of the new reductionism. In M. Schouten & H. L. de Jong (Eds.), The Matter of the Mind (p. 76). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Glennan, S. (2002). Rethinking mechanistic explanation. Philosophy of Science, 69(S3), S342–S353.
  • Glennan, S. (2010). Mechanisms. In H. S. Beebee, C. Hitchcock, & P. Menzies (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Causation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hammond, D. (2005). Philosophical and Ethical Foundations of Systems Thinking. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 3(2), 20–27.
  • Hooker, C. (Ed.). (2011). Philosophy of Complex Systems. Oxford: North Holland (Elsevier).
  • Illari, P. M., Russo, F., & Williamson, J. (2011). Causality in the Sciences. Oxford: OUP.
  • Machamer, P., Darden, L., & Craver, C. F. (2000). Thinking about mechanisms. Philosophy of Science, 1–25.
  • Mitcham, C. (1998). The Importance of Philosophy to Engineering. Teorema, 17(3), 27–47.
  • Midgley, G. (2001). Rethinking the unity of science. International Journal of General Systems, 30(3), 379–409.
  • Mingers, J. (2011). The Contribution of Systemic Thought to Critical Realism. Journal of Critical Realism, 10(3), 303–330.
  • Mingers, J. (2014). Systems Thinking, Critical Realism and Philosophy: A Confluence of Ideas. New York: Routledge.
  • Ormerod, R. J. (2014). Critical Rationalism for Practice and its Relationship to Critical Systems Thinking. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, n/a–n/a. http://doi.org/10.1002/sres.2326
  • Sider, T. (2011). Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Von Bertalanffy, L. (1955). An essay on the relativity of categories. Philosophy of Science, 22(4), 243–263.
  • Von Bertalanffy, L. (1960). The Psychopathology of Scientism. In H. Schoeck & J. W. Wiggins (Eds.), Scientism and Values (pp. 202–218). Princeton  N.J.: Van Nostrand.
  • Von Bertalanffy, L. (1967). Robots, Men and Minds. New York: Braziller.


  • Aerts, D., Apostel, L., De Moor, B., Hellemans, S., Maex, E., Van Belle, H., & Van der Veken, J. (1994). Worldviews: from fragmentation to integration. Brussels: VUB Press.
  • Aerts, D., Apostel, L., De Moor, B., Hellemans, S., Maex, E., Van Belle, H., & Van der Veken, J. (1995). Perspectives on the World: An Interdisciplinary Reflection. Brussels: VUB Press.
  • Aerts, D., D’Hooghe, B., Pinxten, R., & Wallerstein, I. (Eds.). (2011). Worldviews, Science And Us: Interdisciplinary Perspectives On Worlds, Cultures And Society - Proceedings Of The Workshop On "Worlds, Cultures And Society. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company.
  • Hiebert, P. G. (2008). Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Naugle, D. (2002). Worldview: The History of a Concept. Cambridge  UK: Eerdmans.
  • Rousseau, D. (2014a). Reconciling Spirituality with the Naturalistic Sciences: a Systems-Philosophical Perspective. Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 4(2), 174–189.
  • Rousseau, D. (2014b). Systems Philosophy and the Unity of Knowledge. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 31(2), 146–159.
  • Sire, J. W. (2004). Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
  • Wallace, W. A. (1996). The Modeling of Nature: Philosophy of Science and the Philosophy of Nature in Synthesis. The Catholic University of America Press.

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