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The only way to accurately describe this book is as a historical and philosophical survey of that human notion we know of as "System". Both as a conceptual tool for organizing and generating knowledge of the world (an explanatory model approximating reality) as well as an actual feature of the organization and behavior of that world, perhaps even fundamental to nature of reality itself as an information system containing many other systems at various scales, Siskin examines the subject with deft analytical and academic energy.
The book is at times earth shakingly profound in the revelations and suppositions put forward relating system to the world as well as to knowledge of the world and the magnificent moments when the author is able to steer what amounts to an intellectual locomotive in such a way as to unify vast strands of thought that serve to hint at tantalizing uniformities and commonalities across the disciplines. The depth of historical evaluation is equally impressive, almost recursive, as we are taking not just through the history of the idea of System, but the history of the idea of systems it relates to the history of ideas and indeed to the historiography of how history emerged as as separate discipline and how that discipline diverged so far from its brethren in both the humanities and the sciences for its phasis on the particular and the peculiar (the outliers) rather than a coherent knowledge system with unifying principles and explanatory forms.
Where the book suffers is a ponderous and dense writing style (even by my standards) that tends to (among other things) repeat the word "system" as a pronoun so often it becomes insufferable.
but, if you can make it through, you will come away with a richer understanding and a wider perspective of just how much is contained in (and promised by) that innocuous, overly repeated word: "system".
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
A complicated, yet beautiful exploration of the architecture of knowledge. I will surely listen to it again, maybe this time at a slower speed.