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Metamodeling: The epistemology of system science


The Metasystem Paradigm postulates a hierarchy of at least three inquiring systems: at the lowest level of abstraction, an inquiring system devoted to IMPLEMENTATION; at the object level, an inquiring system devoted to MODELING; and finally, at the metalevel, an inquiring system devoted to METAMODELING. System Design is incomplete without the intervention of these three inquiring systems, each of which plays a role in System Design. System Science draws its paradigm and its epistemology from the metalevel inquiring system. Furthermore, this inquiring system is dedicated to a methodology called METAMODELING which provides MODELING (at the next-lower inquiring system) with its source of knowledge and its reasoning methods. A design is incomplete unless it takes into account both MODELING and METAMODELING. METAMODELING is to MODELING what the Theory of Design is to Design, or what Decision Making ABOUT Decision Making is to Decision Making, or what Learning to Learn is to Learning. The consequences of using an obsolete modeling paradigm are explored in relation to the discipline of operations research.

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Presented to the XII World Congress in Sociology, Session on Ethics in Systems, Working Group on Sociocybernetics and Systems Theory, Madrid, July 1990.

Excerpted in part from John P. van Gigch,System Design Modeling and Metamodeling, Plenum, New York and London, 1991.

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van Gigch, J.P. Metamodeling: The epistemology of system science. Systems Practice 6, 251–258 (1993).

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Key words

  • system science
  • epistemology of
  • modeling
  • metamodeling
  • Operations Research
  • decision making
  • system failures