2At the Origins of System Sciences: Communication and Control

2.1. A little systemic epistemology

In his works dedicated to the philosophy of science, in particular, Science et méthode, H. Poincaré dedicated an entire chapter to explaining what a definition should mean, asking the question: “What is a good definition?”. He caused a scandal by saying: “A good definition is one that is understood (by pupils, by those who must use it, by engineers…)”, because, in effect, if this is not the case, we will not be able to communicate, nor a fortiori to act. For H. Poincaré, intuition was something entirely fundamental, hence his constant reminder: “What is the point of this?”, a phrase that was repeated by L. Wittgenstein in his lectures at Cambridge: “Don’t ask for a meaning, ask for a use”, in reference to the aphorism 3.328 of the Tractacus: “If a sign does not mean anything, it has no meaning.” A better expression could not be found to avoid any sterile scholasticism, in particular, concerning systemics, with its shifting boundaries, and where circular reasonings permanently lie in wait. By intuition, said H. Poincaré, “the mathematical world enters into contact with reality…”. And, later: “An engineer must receive a complete mathematical education, but what use should it be to them? Different aspects need to be examined and quickly so; engineers have no time to be nitpicking. It is necessary, in the complex physical objects that are available to them, that they recognize promptly ...

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