Centre for Systems Philosophy

The Scope of Systems Philosophy

As a philosophical endeavour Systems Philosophy is concerned with the classical purposes of philosophy, namely to:

  1. Clear up confusions in our concepts and ways of thinking (logic and analysis);
  2. Reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we can obtain it (epistemology);
  3. Put our knowledge into some kind of order so we can see what is known, what is unknown, and see the 'big picture' it suggests (knowledge maps and a worldview including a world picture and a lifeview);
  4. Comment on the scope and nature of gaps in our knowledge, and the meaning this has for interpreting the 'big picture', and give guidance about which gaps are closable, how that might be done, what closing them would mean, and how to prioritise the work to close them (big questions, vision, research agenda);
  5. Contribute to answering questions of ultimate concern by reasoning from principles or empirical evidence, or suggesting new ways in which relevant evidences might be gathered, or helping investigators to understand the meaning and utility of the worldview suggested by these philosophical investigations.


In Systems Philosophy all these tasks are informed by the systems perspective, setting it apart from other scientific strands of philosophy.  As discussed here, there are now several strands of Systems Philosophy representing a range of metaphysical perspectives, each one providing the philosophical component of a corresponding school within the field of Systemology.  Despite the present diversity of metaphysical perspectives amongst systemologists the aims of Systems Philosophy remain the same in each of the systemological schools.  In line with the outline given above, the task of systems philosophers in each school of Systemology is to develop, for that school: 

  1. A Discourse Domain (“Glossary”) that clarifies the concepts involved and standardises its terminology.
  2. An Epistemology that
    • explains how systemic processes enable, condition or prevent the acquisition of kinds of knowledge, and creates both opportunities and limits on what we can come to know; and
    • explains how the models and theories of the transdiscipline can be used to acquire knowledge relevant to the purposes of the transdiscipline.  
  3. Maps and models representing:
    • A Typology that shows the scope and range of the relevant transdiscipline.
    • A World Picture comprising:
      • An Ontology (theory of what exists most fundamentally);
      • A Metaphysics (theory about the nature of what exists and hence what is possible); and
      • A Cosmology (model of the origin, history, organisation and possible futures of the concrete world).
    • A Lifeview, comprising:
      • An Axiology (a value system and theories about the nature of values and how to make value judgements); and
      • a Praxeology (theory about the nature of action, agency, freedom and responsibility).
  4. Guidance about how to prioritise and achieve the work of the transdiscipline, comprising:
    • A definition of the transdiscipline’s Subject Matter, comprising
      • A Subject Catalogue, describing and classifying the phenomena of interest in the transdiscipline.
      • A Vision that sets overall aims for the discipline in terms of its value system.
    • A Problematics comprising:
      • The “Big Questions” the transdiscipline seeks to answer.
      • A Research Agenda that defines and prioritizes the work of the transdiscipline
  5. Projects to complete, expand, socialise or leverage the systems worldview, including:
    • Fundamental Research Projects, aimed at answering the “Big Questions” by improving or expanding the explanatory theories and investigative methods of the chosen systemological transdiscipline, and
    • Application Projects, aimed at promoting awareness of the scope and value of the transdiscipline’s worldview, and assisting investigators, designers, technologists and engineers to leverage it in pursuit of their own disciplinary objectives.
Desktop Site