Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series

The Systems Engineering Worldview: The Technological Structure and Function of Reality



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The research reported here is concerned with understanding the components and composition of reality, according to the systems engineering worldview. To start, George Bugliarello argues that what engineers do, their progressive development of reality, is a natural extension of biological evolution. The implication is that biological evolution is, and always has been, an emergent, systems engineering enterprise. Reality, therefore, should be understandable (intelligible) both chronologically and ontologically as an emerging system of technological structures and functions.

As I will point out, the Systems Engineering Worldview is not new. In Plato’s Timaeus reality is presented as the emerging product of the actions of the Architekton, the Master Craftsman, the global systems engineer.

I develop this approach in several steps. In Step One, I briefly present the modern philosophy of systems engineering, as represented in the works of George Bugliarello, Walter Vincenti, Sam Florman and Herbert Simon. In Step Two, I report on my investigation of the illuminating Uniformitarianism debate in geology, contrasting Lyell’s scientific worldview with Cuvier’s systems engineering worldview. In Step Three, I argue that the historical and geo-physical sciences can never be reduced to the hard, time-space invariant mechanical sciences. What is needed is a meta-paradigm shift to the more general, superseding participant systems engineering worldview. In Step Four, I review another earlier, systems engineering worldview that surfaced in the 17th and 18th century Europe in the works of Leibniz and the Carnots. Thermodynamics and engines are seen to be essential to the systems engineering worldview. In the Final Step, with the insights gained from these last three steps, I revisit Step One issues in the modern philosophy of systems engineering suggesting enhancements and clarifications.

Biographical Information

Terry Bristol is President of the Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy. He started in Astrophysics at UC Berkeley, shifted to, and graduated in, Philosophy of Science. Completed five years of graduate study in History and Philosophy of Science at University of London. Taught at Linfield University for eight years, PSU and PCC full and part-time on-off for twenty+ years. Dissatisfied with the Scientific Worldview and the associated Philosophy of Science, he morphed into the working on the Engineering Worldview and the Philosophy of Systems Engineering. His recent research emphasis is on engines and engineering thermodynamics. He will publish soon a translation of a mature work of 17th - 18th century master engineer, Lazare Carnot (Sadi’s father): Fundamental Principle of Equilibrium and Motion.


Technology -- Philosophy, Engineering -- Philosophy, Engineering -- Cross-cultural studies


Engineering | Thermodynamics

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The Systems Engineering Worldview: The Technological Structure and Function of Reality