On the Foundations of Systems

  • 2014-06-05
  • Research

A talk by Prof. Rainer E. Zimmermann, Unified Theory of Information (UTI)


The talk deals with the problem of foundations. This is what philosophy actually does as compared to what the sciences do: it is thus not simply reproducing scientific results – this would be rather uneconomical indeed – but instead it is doing what the sciences cannot do: to look for a unified view of the totality of the observable world (by unifying the various disciplines) and for its foundations. The former is the “sceptical” part that is based on empirical insight, while the latter is the “speculative”, meta-physical part, because ground cannot be part of what it is grounding so that the foundations are always in some sense exterior to the observable world.

The first aspect we will discuss in terms of the theory of systems. The idea is the following: As I have shown more recently at another place, it is Spinoza who can be understood as the first philosopher introducing the strict notion of a system in the modern sense of ongoing research in the sciences. In fact, my whole book on these consequences of Spinozist thought can be understood as a first commentary to a remark published by Henri Atlan at the 1995 ISES meeting in Vienna: At the time, he visualized Spinoza as the early inventor of the modern concept of evolutionary systems in the first place. And from the scope of Spinoza’s seventeenth century Ethics we can actually derive the scope of the theory of systems nowadays, as the editors of the aforementioned volume have formulated: “It is important to see that describing the interactive history of systems in terms of stability and evolvability … fundamentally rearranges any discussion on values, aims, and purposes, and on individuality and subjectivity.” So what we will do is to give a sufficiently compact summary of recent results on systems. And we will shortly draft out a possible approach to their foundations.


Prof. Rainer E. Zimmermann is founding editor and co-editor of the half-yearly journal “System & Struktur”, 1992-1999, Team leader of the project group “The Problem of Nature after German Idealism” within the Interdisciplinary Study Group on Foundational Problems, University of Kassel, until its termination. From 2000-2005 he was INTAS co-operative member (Kassel group team leader) together with groups from the TU Vienna (organizer: Wolfgang Hofkirchner), the University of Kiev, and the Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, on the topic “Human Strategies in Complexity”. From 2008 Rainer E. Zimmerman is chairman of the executive board and scientific director of the Institute of Design Science (e.V.), Munich.

Furthermore, he es co-editor of the institute’s monograph series, member of various philosophical societies, committee and board member of various institutions, mainly in the field of systems sciences, Elected Academic Member of the International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences (iascys), Vienna (2011), Elected Academic Member of the Leibniz Society of the Sciences, Berlin (2013), and co-editor of the Bloch dictionary (de Gruyter, Berlin).


This lecture is organized by the Human Computer Interaction Group at the Institute of Design and Assessment of Technology. The informal meeting offers people the possibility to exchange scientific thoughts, questions and know-how. Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting and to bring along his/her own lunch.


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