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Rethinking systems thinking: from a perspective of Chinese philosophy and sustainable development

By Xu guangqing (2005)

Abstract: As we know, the approach of systems thinking is fundamentally different from that of traditional forms of analysis. Traditional analysis focuses on the separating the individual pieces of what is being studied. Systems thinking, contrast, focuses on how the thing being studied interacts with other constituents of the system.

Chinese philosophy is in its nature different from the philosophy in the western world. It is mainly based on experience sciences, not on the experimental sciences. However, Chinese traditional thoughts are in their nature something system thinking. For example, the concept of entirety is the key element of systems approach, and the thinking mode of taking the objects as an entirety has a long history in China.

If we study Chinese philosophy more deeply, we would find there are some relations between the concept of sustainable development and Chinese philosophy. Regarding human and nature as a whole, ancient Chinese tried to make overall plans and take all factors into consideration, and they tried to keep harmonious with the nature.
So there remains a triangular relationship among Chinese philosophy, sustainable development and systems thinking. The exploration of this relationship will benefit human beings’ efforts of sustainable development following systemic principals

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