THE DEVELOPMENT OF SYSTEMS SCIENCE AND ITS THREE CONTRIBUTIONS TO PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Keywords:systems science, systems philosophy, philosophy of science, relational realism
For a century since its inception in 1920s, systems science has constantly and consistently explored complexity, raising numerous new philosophical questions. Scholars have taken different approaches to understanding the development of systems science, which is of great significance to appreciating its philosophical value. In this regard, we concur with H. Simon that there have been three eruptions of interest in complexity and complex systems. We consider as the first eruption the research pioneered by A. Bogdanov and featuring Bertalanffy's general system theory, which marks the formation of systems science. The second eruption refers to the research of self-organization theory that developed from dissipative structure theory and synergetics. The third eruption refers to the research of complexity theory represented by complex adaptation system theory. We propose that there has formed a fourth eruption, as researchers now widely apply the concepts and methods of systems to economic, social and environmental systems, giving systems science research a strong application orientation. The advances in systems science have challenged some classical philosophical ideas and raised a new range of philosophical questions. Furthermore, the Elsevier Handbook of the Philosophy of Science incorporated Philosophy of Complex Systems into the framework of philosophy of science for the first time. We propose that the contributions of systems science to the philosophy of science manifests in the following three aspects: First, systems philosophy developed by Bertalanffy, including systems ontology, epistemology and value, has laid the foundation for systems philosophy to become a school of philosophy of science. Second, systems science addresses the relationship between whole and part, existence and evolution, and seeks to provide new justifications for ontological problems such as relational realism. Third, systems science also challenges the epistemological problems, carving out new explanatory approaches to complex systems emergence with condition-dependent laws and other principles of systems science.