A Brief Introduction
to the System Perspective
by Copthorne Macdonald
A powerful tool for
understanding the world around us is the system perspective on
reality. Complexity in the natural world emerges as a hierarchy of natural
systems or holons which have the property of being a whole
at their own systemic level and a part or component in a system
at the next level up the hierarchy. Subatomic particles get together to
form atoms. Atoms interrelate to form molecules. Molecules of a single
type sometimes join each other to form crystals. And molecules of many
different types sometimes join to form the living systems we call cells.
Cells interconnect to create those complex systems called plants, fish,
birds, and human beings. Living things of many types interact with each
other to form ecosystems. Ecosystems communicate with each other and together
form the biosphere. Human beings start communicating with each other and
give birth to those systems we call societies, economies, and nations.
Ervin Laszlo's book The Systems View of the World is an especially
accessible work on natural systems and the system hierarchy that is found
in nature (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 1996).
Ken Wilber's books A Brief History of Everything, and Sex,
Ecology, Spirituality expand on Laszlo's basic schema. Wilber prefers
the term holon rather than system, and Wilber goes more deeply into the
interior, subjective aspect of systems than does Laszlo.