Systematics – study of multi-term systems
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2008)|
Systematics is a study of systems and their application to the problem of understanding ourselves and the world, developed by John G. Bennett in the mid-twentieth century. The purpose of systematics is the understanding of organized complexity. It was described, at various stages of development, in his major work in four volumes The Dramatic Universe in 1970.
Bennett has defined systematics as "the study of systems and their application to the problem of understanding ourselves and the world." According to him there are four branches of systematics to be determined:
- Formal Systematics which could study "the properties of systems without reference to the nature of the terms. It consists mainly of the investigation of possible modes of connectedness which evidently can be very complex for systems with more than three or four terms".
- Pure Systematics which could seek "to identify and describe the universal properties or attributes common to all systems".
- Applied Systematics which could form "the study of systems occurring in our experience and is chiefly directed to the identification of the terms and their characteristics".
- Practical Systematics which could focus on "the application of the understanding gained through the study of systems to the problems that arise in all departments of life".
Systematics deals with the qualitative significance of number in an orderly way as a series of multi-term systems: monad, dyad, triad, tetrad and so on in an open-ended progression. A multi-term system is defined as:
- A set of independent but mutually relevant terms. Every system has its special attribute, such as dynamism for the triad, or significance for the pentad.
The characters of the terms of a system depend on the system, so that the terms of a triad are impulses and those of a pentad, limits.
In systematics there is a progression of systems from monad up, from vague wholeness to increasingly articulate structure that reaches into society and history. Multi-term systems are the most abstract and simplistic forms of understanding. They evolve into structures, such as expressed in the Enneagram of Process symbol of Gurdjieff, and thence into communities and relevance to biosphere and noosphere.
Systematics came out of the Pythagorean tradition, but was influenced by twentieth century movements such as A. N. Whitehead's philosophy of organism, C. S. Peirce's pragmatism and Jan; but was independent of Bertalanffy's general systems theory and other systems thinking work. The strongest influence was from Gurdjieff and his writings. Gurdjieff had taught the significance of the 'law of three' and the 'law of seven' in an esoteric context, but Bennett proposed that there was a 'law' for every integral number, and that this could help people understand practical things such as management and education.
Parallels can be drawn between systematics and the work of C. G. Jung and Marie Louise von Franz on number as archetypal, as well with the philosophies of engineers such as Buckminster Fuller and Arthur Young.
Systematics has an integrative programme. Throughout all cultures and throughout all disciplines there are discernible threads of meaning associated with multi-term systems that might otherwise be missed. Systematics links with understanding which is connected with structural unity and how insight from one area of experience can be transferred to another without distortion. A journal called Systematics was launched by Bennett’s Institute for Comparative Study to publish a diversity of articles relating to this programme. Systematics also led into the development of a new learning system called structural communication, which later became a broad methodology called logovisual thinking (LVT).
- J.G. Bennett (1963) GENERAL SYSTEMATICS Systematics Vol. 1 No. 1.
- John G. Bennett, General systematics in: Systematics, Vol 1 No. 1, June 1963.
- John G. Bennett: The Dramatic Universe, Vols. I – IV, March 1970.
- John G. Bennett (ed. David Seamon): Elementary Systematics – a tool for understanding wholes, 1970.