Reconstruction of and addenda to Bertalanffy’s General System Theory as a headstone of a new philosophical anthropology

Bertalanffy’s scepticism towards the reductionist, mechanistic approach of modern life sciences, soon lead him to a highly censorious position regarding its impacts on the social sciences and humanities, given that both seemed to assume those approaches rather unconsidered. The multidisciplinary approach in his General System Theory (GST) from its earliest stages of development related life sciences with philosophy, anthropology, psychology, psychiatry and sociology and  designed a fertile and integrative scientific tool that is applicable to all disciplines.

The present project intends to follow Bertalanffy’s transdisciplinary paradigm in tackling the reconstruction of its philosophical-humanistic approaches and – where necessary – to supplement it on the basis of “new” – in the sense of rather unknown – documents in relating it to current developments. In this context Bertalanffy’s estate constitutes an inestimable scientific value. Special emphasis will be given

  • to Bertalanffy’s ideas on the overcoming of the “Cartesian dualism” of body and mind,
  • to a critical stocktaking of those social sciences and humanities having adopted GST with an analysis of the respective explanatory power, and finally
  • to an elaboration of the fundamental deviations between the ontology of nature and the ontology of society following Bertalanffy’s ideas.


Birgit Zehetmayer discovering an as-yet unknown transcript of relevance to the project while working in the archive (photo: Gerd Müller)


The cover of that transcript

The study is performed by Mag. Birgit Zehetmayer (Sociologist) under supervision of Univ. Prof. Dr. Reinhold Knoll (Institute of Sociology, University of Vienna) and ao. Univ. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hofkirchner (Institute of Design and Technology Assessment, Vienna University of Technology) and is partly funded by the City of Vienna, Municipial Department 7 (Culture and Research), including the Hochschuljubiläumsfonds.

Birgit Zehetmayer (left) presenting some findings during the LvB 110 Symposium (photo: Günther Ossimitz)