Foundations of Science

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 195–206 | Cite as

Belief Systems and the Modeling Relation

  • Roberto Poli


The paper presents the most general aspects of scientific modeling and shows that social systems naturally include different belief systems (i.e. different models). Belief systems differ in a variety of respects, most notably in the selection of suitable qualities to encode and the internal structure of the observables. The following results emerge from the analysis: (1) conflict is explained by showing that different models encode different qualities, which implies that they model different realities; (2) explicitly connecting models to the realities that they encode makes it possible to clarify the relations among models; (3) by understanding that social systems are complex one knows that there is no chance of developing a maximal model of the system; (4) the distinction among different levels of depth implicitly includes a strategy for inducing change; (5) identity-preserving models are among the most difficult to modify; (6) since models do not customarily generate internal signals of error, strategies with which to determine when models are out of synch with their situations are especially valuable; (7) changing the form of power from a zero sum game to a positive sum game helps transform the nature of conflicts.


Modeling relation Observable Adequate models  Complexity Levels of depth Conflict Robert Rosen  Georges Gurvitch 


  1. Albertazzi, L. (2013a). Experimental phenomenology. An introduction. In L. Albertazzi (Ed.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of experimental phenomenology. Visual perception of shape, space and appearance (pp. 1–36). London: Blackwell-Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albertazzi, L. (2013b). Appearances from a radical standpoint. In L. Albertazzi (Ed.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of experimental phenomenology. Visual perception of shape, space and appearance (pp. 267–290). London: Blackwell-Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction. A social critique of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Eschrig, H. (2011). Topology and geometry for physics. Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gurvitch, G. (1964). The spectrum of social time. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  6. Louie, A. H. (2013). The reflection of life. Functional entailment and imminence in relational biology. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Louie, A. H., & Poli, R. (2011). The spread of hierarchical cycles. International Journal of General Systems, 40, 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Maynard Smith, J. (1987). How to model evolution. In J. Dupré (Ed.), The latest on the best (pp. 119–131). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  9. Poli, R. (2001). The basic problem of the theory of levels of reality. Axiomathes, 12(3–4), 261–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Poli, R. (2006). Levels of reality and the psychological stratum. Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 61(2), 163–180.Google Scholar
  11. Poli, R. (2007). Three obstructions: Forms of causation, chronotopoids, and levels of reality. Axiomathes, 17(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Poli, R. (2009). The complexity of anticipation. Balkan Journal of Philosophy, 1(1), 19–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Poli, R. (2011). Analysis-synthesis. In V. Petrov (Ed.), Ontological landscapes (pp. 19–42). Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag.Google Scholar
  14. Poli, R. (2012). Complexity acceleration, and anticipation. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 14(4), 124–138.Google Scholar
  15. Poli, R. (2013). A note on the difference between complicated and complex social systems. Cadmus, 2(1), 142–147.Google Scholar
  16. Rosen, R. (1975). Complexity and error in social dynamics. International Journal of General Systems, 2, 145–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rosen, R. (1978). Fundamentals of measurement and representation of natural systems. New York: North Holland.Google Scholar
  18. Rosen, R. (1979). Old trends and new trends in general systems research. International Journal of General Systems, 5(3), 173–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rosen, R. (1985). Anticipatory systems. Philosophical, mathematical and methodological foundations. Oxford/Dordrecht: Pergamon Press/Springer.Google Scholar
  20. Rosen, R. (1991). Life itself. A comprehensive inquiry into the nature, origin, and fabrication of life. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rosen, R. (2000). Essays on life itself. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social ResearchUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly

Personalised recommendations