by Magnus Anderson » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:08 pm
The subject of this thread is a very simple question: what is a system?
I am not speaking of political systems but systems in general.
My early attempt at a definition would be "a set of related variables". Two variables are related if the value of one variable limits what value the other variable can assume. If no variable limits what value the other variable can assume then the two variables are said to be unrelated. There can be any number of variables in a system. However, every variable must be related to at least one other variable in the system if it is to be considered part of that system. Variables that are unrelated do not form a system but merely a set of variables (or more specifically, a set of unrelated variables.)
Every relation between two variables is such that one variable is the limiting (a.k.a. independent) variable and the other variable is the limited (a.k.a. dependent) variable. The limiting variable is the variable the value of which limits what values the other variable can assume. The other variable is the limited variable. Within a system, every variable must perform at least one of the two functions. However, variables can also perform both functions i.e. they can be both limited and limiting variables provided that variables that limit them and variables they limit are two non-overlapping sets of variables. Variables that limit other variables without being limited themselves by some other variables are known as "input" variables. Their values are either determined by factors that are outside of the system or they are not determined by any other value. In logic, they are known as "premises". They are also known as "knowns". Variables that are limited by other variables but that do not limit other variables themselves are known as "output" variables. The values of these variables are determined by the system itself. In logic, they are known as "conclusions". They are also known as "knowns". However, this may not be entirely true. In reality, any variable within the system can be treated as "input" or "output" variable. It's an arbitrary choice. However, some variables are more fit to be "input" variables and other variables are more fit to be "output" variables. In this sense, the claim that purely limiting variables are "input" variables and purely limited variables are "output" variables remains true.
When the value of every variable in the system is set what we get is a set of values that potentially represents one possible configuration of the system. When the value of every variable is such that it respects the rules of the system, which are determined by the relations between variables, then the resulting configuration is set to be legal. Otherwise, it is said to be illegal. It is thus possible to define the concept of system as "a set of possible configurations" where every configuration is represented using some sort of set of data. However, this definition is too broad so it must be narrowed in order to rule out non-systemic sets of possible configurations.
There is a lot more to be said on the subject of systems than this single post can cover. For example, I want to know whether systems should permit variables to be in one kind of relation with more than one variable. For example, I want to know whether a single variable should be allowed to limit more than one variable in the system. Also, I want to know whether every value of a variable should be in the same kind of relation with other variables. Also, I want to know whether every relation between two variables should follow the rules of mathematical function i.e. whether every value of variable X should be associated with exactly one value of variable Y. More on this some other time.
I got a philosophy degree, I'm not upset that I can't find work as a philosopher. It was my decision, and I knew that it wasn't a money making degree, so I get money elsewhere.
-- Mr. Reasonable