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< previous page page_3 next page > Page 3 1.3 The Development of Systems Thinking Pre-systems thinking was characterised by disputes between mechanists who believed that everything that occurred was completely determined by something which preceded it, and vitalists who believed that a mysterious force inhabited complex entities such as organisms. The difficulty was that, prior to systems thinking, no very satisfactory concepts existed for understanding phenomena except those employed by physicists, and their concepts seemed unable to explain the behaviour of complex phenomena. Thus space existed for the metaphysical doctrines of vitalism to flourish. However, when vitalism was effectively refuted in biology, by scientific developments that led to explanations of some hitherto inexplicable experimental results in terms of causal relationships, it looked as though the way was open for the triumph of mechanism.
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Mechanistic thinking adheres to analysis and reductionism, claiming that all objects and
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