Advances in Systems Science and Applications
Systems theory, Metaphysics, Ontology, Problem solving
Systems theory offers a language in which one might formulate a metaphysics (or more specifically an ontology) of problems. This proposal is based upon a conception of systems theory shared by von Bertalanffy, Wiener, Boulding, Rapoport, Ashby, Klir, and others, and expressed succinctly by Bunge, who considered game theory, information theory, feedback control theory, and the like to be attempts to construct an "exact and scientific metaphysics." Our prevailing conceptions of "problems" are concretized yet also fragmented and in fact dissolved by the standard reductionist model of science, which cannot provide a general framework for analysis. The idea of a "systems theory," however, suggests the possibility of an abstract and coherent account of the origin and essence of problems. Such an account would constitute a secular theodicy. This claim is illustrated by examples from game theory, information processing, non-linear dynamics, optimization, and other areas. It is not that systems theory requires as a matter of deductive necessity that problems exist, but it does reveal the universal and lawful character of many problems which do arise.
© 1995 International Institute for General Systems Studies; later issues of this journal are hosted on the Open Journal Systems platform:
Zwick, Martin (1995) "Towards an Ontology of Problems." Advances in Systems Science and Applications Inauguration Issue I, pp. 37-42.