Concepts View

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A system exhibiting some or all of the following properties: heterogeneity of parts, non-aggregativity or non-linear behavior, hierarchical organization, robustness, modularity, and adaptive or agential behavior.


Ladyman, J., Lambert, J. and K. Wiesner (2013). “What is a complex system?” European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3:33–67.


A contingent cause, exerted by particular structures or dynamics, that reduces the degrees of freedom of a process on which it acts.  While a constraint influences how a process behaves, it is not altered by that process on the timescale relevant to describing the process. An example is the surface of an inclined plane, which represents a constraint on the motion of a ball rolling across the surface, but which is unaffected by the motion of the ball.


Montévil, M and M. Mossio (2015). “Biological organisation as closure of constraints.” Journal of Theoretical Biology 372:179–191.

Allied Concepts:
Autonomy, Organizational Closure, Regulation (or, Biological Regulation), Work-Constraint Cycle,